BA English Language and Russian

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA20012
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The subject matter of phonology is cognitive: the discipline studies the sounds of languages not as events in the physical world, but as representations in the minds of speakers and listeners. Phonologists seek to discover the internal structure of such mental representations, how they are stored and assembled, and how they interact with knowledge of word and sentence structure (morphosyntax), as well as with articulation and audition. This course unit uses examples of various types, from synchronic sound patterns to data from historical change and first-language acquisition, in order to explore current theoretical hypotheses on all these questions.

This course unit is a prerequisite for LELA30442 English Phonology Past and Present.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
The Sounds of Language LELA10322 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Pre-req of LELA10322.

Compulsary pre-requisites: LELA10322 The Sounds of Language. Students who do not have this pre-requisite must contact the academic to gain approval before they can be enrolled.


This course aims to equip the student with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to analyse phonological phenomena of various types; these will include not only synchronic sound patterns, but also data from historical change and first-language acquisition. Students will see how phonologists use a wide range of empirical evidence critically to appraise and refine their models of the human phonological faculty. Students will become acquainted with current theoretical problems, including the advantages and drawbacks of constraint-based models of phonology.


Week 1. What is phonology?

Week 2. Syllable structure

Week 3. Markedness and syllables: Optimality Theory

Week 4. Stress and the foot

Week 5. Distinctive features

Week 6. Autosegmental behaviour and feature geometry

Week 7. Opacity and conspiracy

Week 8. The morphology-phonology interface

Week 9. The phonology-phonetics interface

Week 10. Phonological change

Week 11. Unit revision

Teaching and learning methods

One 2hr lecture per week over 11 weeks

One 1hr seminar per week over 11 weeks

E-Learning: All course materials, including lecture handouts, practice exercises, links to electronically available readings, and course and assessment info will be made available on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students will have gained an understanding of some of the major theoretical proposals concerning how linguistic sounds are represented in the minds of speakers (the theory of representations), how phonological representations are assembled in the mind from elements stored in memory (the theory of derivations), and how phonology interacts with other kinds of linguistic knowledge (the place of phonology in the architecture of grammar).

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students will have enhanced their problem-solving skills as well as their creative and critical thinking, as reflected, for example, in the ability to assess alternative analyses and hypotheses for a given data-set.


Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to analyse phonological data and present their analyses in standard, theoretically-informed formats.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course, students will have enhanced their ability to recognize how theories and claims can and must be supported empirically, as well as the ability to produce well-argued analyses.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


In-term coursework: in-depth analysis of one phonological data set

Formative and Summative


Final Exam





Feedback methods


Feedback Method

Formative or Summative

Verbal feedback on problems discussed in plenary lectures


Verbal feedback on contributions to tutorials


Comments on in-term coursework

 Formative and Summative

Global written feedback in the form of a key to a model exam paper available on Blackboard


Face-to-face discussion of exam results if desired (on the understanding that this deanonymizes the marking)



Recommended reading

Gussenhoven, Carlos & Haike Jacobs. 2017. Understanding phonology, 4th edn. Abingdon: Routledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

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