Alex Chabot (University of Maryland)

Ling I / Cog A: On Phonology as Cognition (Intermediate)

Alex Chabot (University of Maryland)

This class is about phonology as the study of a human cognitive capacity of human beings. In modular models of cognition, the mind is not a single all-purpose computer; rather it is built out of individual functional components which are specialized for carrying out specific tasks. Perception is a kind of information processing task that allows for the mind to make sense of the rich buzzing of the world external to ourselves. This class is a discussion of phonology as a kind of information processing: what is it that we interpret when we interpret linguistic sound? How does sound get from outside our bodies to inside of our minds? And why does it happen at all?

Phonology is about the relationship between physical phenomena and linguistic knowledge, which makes it an interesting way to explore what linguistic knowledge is like, as it straddles the physical world of phonetics and the purely symbolic world of morphosyntax.

The course begins with a discussion of linguistic knowledge and what phonological knowledge is like. We will consider phonology as a computational/representational system that, being modular, necessarily requires three related theories: a theory of phonological representations, a theory of phonological computations, and a theory of the interface between phonetics, phonology, and morphosyntax.

The questions we will ask in this class concern the nature of those three parts: what are phonological representations like? What kinds of possible phonological computations are there? What are the interfaces between phonology like and what do they do?

Basic background in Phonology required