Descriptive Linguistics

This programme consists of four courses: Linguistic field methods (slot 1), Analyzing vowels (slot 2), The art of writing a grammar (slot 3), and Field phonetics (slot 4).

Slot 1: Linguistic Field Methods (9.30 - 11.00)

Christian Rapold (Regensburg)

Course description
We train linguistic fieldmethods, elicitation and others, by working with a speaker of a language under the guidance of an experienced field worker. The language will the Chadic language Mafa from Cameroun with Ndokobai Dadak as native speaker and the teacher is Christian Rapold.

Slot 2: Analyzing vowels (11.30 - 13.00)

Constance Kutch Lojenga (Leiden and SIL)

Course description
This course on Vowels will focus on various issues involving the study of vowels. It presupposes that the participating students have basic knowledge about phonetics and phonology and that they have had hands-on experience with the analysis of the vowel system of a language. The background of the lecturer lies in African languages, so the different topics will be treated from a wide range of African languages.

Course outline
After a general introduction to the topic, including vowels from an articulatory perspective, labels and features, focus on vowel systems, and how to do practical vowel research in a particular language, different subtopics are treated, like vowel length (5 possible causes for vowel length in languages), special features of vowel nasalization, diphthongs, the occurrence of voiceless vowels in African languages, Vowel Harmony based on the features ATR and RTR (Advanced / Retracted Tongue Root), and other types of Vowel Harmony. Finally various types of hiatus resolution will be discussed.

N.B. The course does not contain a component of instrumental vowel research.

Slot 3: The Art of Writing 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: Field Phonetics (16.00 - 17.30)

Martin Kohlberger (Leiden)

Course description
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).


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