Language Description Programme

All courses in this programme have a maximum of 20 participants. Places will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis.

Slot 1: Tone in African Languages (9.30-11.00)

Constance Kutsch Lojenga (Leiden)

The majority of the world’s languages, including most endangered languages, are tone languages. Although many researchers are daunted at the prospect of describing and analyzing a tone language, the basics of a practical methodology for tone analysis can be acquired in a relatively short period of time. Researchers venturing into the field will be able to make a good start and develop a strategy for further research in the topic.

Researchers preparing for fieldwork in such languages need to collect data for tone analysis and be prepared for listening to and transcribing the surface pitches of words and longer utterances. Their next challenge is discovering the underlying tonal melodies associated with the major grammatical classes—nouns and verbs—from the surface pitch they have heard. With a practical methodology and typological background, researchers will be able to achieve these aims. My experience is in tone in African languages; the principles of the approach, however, should be valid for tone languages worldwide.

The course will also treat topics like depressor consonants, various types of tone rules, like spreading, shifting, polarity and Meeussen’s rule, as well as register phenomena: Downdrift, Downstep, Upstep.

A discussion on the function of tone will be followed by the topic of tone orthography and tone teaching.

Broad overview of the topics
Tone in the world’s languages; tone in African languages
What is a tone language?

Surface and underlying structure

Typology of tone systems

Practical methodology

Data gathering and organizing the data for tone analysis
Listening and mimicking
Transcribing pitch/tone
Interpreting tones and tonal melodies; making hypotheses for the underlying system
How to proceed with further details of the tone analysis

Segment / Tone interaction

Some frequently occurring tonal phenomena
Tone Rules
Register phenomena

Function of tone

Tone orthography and tone teaching

Supplementary sessions: practical tone-reading exercises and tone-hearing exercises

Slot 2: Field Methods (11.30-13.00)

Christian Rapold (Leiden)

We train linguistic fieldmethods, elicitation and others, by working with a speaker of a language under the guidance of an experienced field worker.

Slot 3: The Art of Writing a Grammar (14.00-15.30)

Maarten Mous (Leiden)

The purpose of the course is to reflect on and train in grammar writing. It is geared to people who are about to write a grammar or part of a grammar. It will not be prescriptive in nature but rather raise the issues one has to deal with when writing a grammar. The goals is to become aware of the many decisions we have to take and what their consequences are.

Topics that are discussed are: The genre of the descriptive grammar: We discuss different traditions in space and time and the revolution of recognizing the prerequisite of a phonological analysis. Organisation (the book and the work):  We talk about both the organisation of your work dealing with question such as which part do you write first, when do you decide on a table of contents. We also deal with the structure of the book: Do you present syntax first or last, do you divide the morphology along the lines of derivation versus inflection of along the lines of verbal versus nominal morphology, what to do with residual word classes, where to place the morphophonology, when and how to stop. Contents and labels: What should be included in the grammar? (lexicon, texts, greetings, idiomatic expressions, names, expression of time and space) How should we deal with dialectal and other variation? To what extend do we include sociolinguistic and socio-cultural information? Furthermore we discuss the choice of examples, adaptations, transcription, level of glossing and issues of translation.: Universal versus Language specific: The discussion is about how to handle theoretical consequences of observations on the language under description, about the differences between a descriptive grammar and a grammar that is consistent with a specific model, about when to use expected labels such as “pronoun” while you think there is no ground for that particular label in the language under description, about to what extent to follow a framework of description that is dominant in your field. We discuss the relationship between typology and description and we discuss the problem of deciding on terminology.

Slot 4: Phonetic Theory and Field Phonetics (16.00-17.30)

Martin Kohlberger (Leiden)

This course will be an introduction to phonetic theory and will give students the skills to carry out high quality phonetic fieldwork.  The course will consist of two parts.  First, theoretical concepts of phonetics will be covered, including production and aerodynamics of speech sounds.  This part of the course is intended to give the student a solid understanding of phonetic theory.  The second part of the course will relate to empirical issues such as data collection and acoustic analysis using ‘Praat’ software.  In addition to learning to collect and analyse audio data, students will learn to perform static palatographies, and will be familiarized with more technical methods of phonetic data collection (such as airflow measuring and ultrasound imaging).

The course will be supported by readings from the following book:
Ladefoged, Peter (2003). Phonetic Data Analysis: An Introduction to Fieldwork and Instrumental Techniques. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Students will need a laptop in order to do practical exercises at different points of the course.