Linguistic Theory reading list and tutorial topics

1. de Saussure: context and contributions

de Saussure, F. (1915) Course in General Linguistics. Introduction: Chapters I-V, VII, Appendix; Part I; Part II.

Context: Morpurgo Davies, A. (1998) History of Linguistics Vol. IV: Nineteenth-Century Linguistics. Chapter 10.

Commentary: Anderson, S. R. (1985) Phonology in the Twentieth Century: Theories of Rules and Theories of Representations. Chapters 1 and 2.

There are often questions such as the following on the exam:

Discuss the contribution of one of the following to linguistic theory: Saussure, Jakobson, Sapir, Fillmore.

For your essay, interpret this as:

Discuss Saussure's contributions to linguistic theory.

In assessing de Saussure's contributions, I would like you to focus on the following dichotomies: synchronic vs. diachronic linguistics; langue vs. parole, and the importance of linguistic systems. We will take up these themes in subsequent tutorials.

2. 'Exterior' vs. 'interior' views of language and grammar.

Sapir, E. (1925) Sound patterns in language. Language 1. 37-51. [This is a journal, not a book, note.]
Reprinted in various places, including in E. P. Hamp, M. Joos, F. W. Householder and R. Austerlitz, eds. Readings in Linguistics I.

Bloomfield, L. (1933) Language. Chapter 2. [This is a book, not the journal.]

Firth, J. R. (1935) The use and distribution of certain English sounds. In Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951. 34-46.

Jakobson, R. and M. Halle (1956) Fundamentals of Language. Part I, Chapter 2. [A slightly revised version appeared in B. Malmberg, ed. (1968) Manual of Phonetics, 411-449.]

The central question to consider is:

Should (can?) language be studied purely in its external aspect, or must we also (instead?) examine its mental instantiation?

3. System

Jakobson, R. and J. Lotz (1949) Notes on the French phonemic pattern. Word5, 151-8. Reprinted in Roman Jakobson: Selected Writings, vol. I: Phonological Studies. 426-34.

Jakobson, R. and L. Waugh (1979) The Sound Shape of Language. Chapter 1.

Commentary: Anderson, S. R. (1985) Phonology in the Twentieth Century: Theories of Rules and Theories of Representations. Chapter 5.

Following de Saussure (and like Firth), Jakobson regarded linguistic items as deriving their identity from their contrasts with other items in a system. As evidence for this, he repeatedly refers to a number of examples, in various of his works: Bulgarian 'schwa'; French velars, palatals and postalveolars; Danish t/d and d/ð. Make sure you understand the argument for relativism that he builds on these examples.

Essay question: Markedness is intrinsically a relative notion. Discuss.

(This could also address other areas of grammar than phonology.)

4. Innateness, Universal Grammar

Chomsky, N. (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Chapter 1.

Chomsky, N. (1988) Language and problems of knowledge: the Managua lectures. Chapters 1-2.

Key themes: competence vs. performance; explanatory requirements of a theory of grammar; levels of adequacy in the justification of grammars; role of universals in language acquisition.

Past exam questions (pick one):

'We have grammars in our heads' (Neil Smith). Discuss.

'In certain fundamental respects we do not really learn language; rather, grammar grows in the mind' (Noam Chomsky). Discuss.

5. Universals, Principles and Parameters in Syntax

Greenberg, J. H., C. E. Osgood and J. J. Jenkins (1963) Memorandum concerning language universals.

Greenberg, J. H. (1963) Some universals of grammar with particular reference to the order of meaningful elements.

(Both of the above are in J. H. Greenberg, ed. Universals of Language.)

Sells, P. (1985) Lectures on contemporary syntactic theories. Chapters 1 and 2.

OR: R. C. Berwick and A. S. Weinberg (1986) The grammatical basis of linguistic performance. Pages 17-33. (Nice synopsis of the main ideas of Government-Binding theory.)

OR: V. J. Cook (1988) Chomsky's universal grammar : an introduction.

Key proposals: X-bar syntax, projection principle, subjacency, binding.

Past exam question: Explain what is meant by the principles and parameters approach to syntactic theory.

6. Principles and Parameters in Phonology

Booij, G. E. (1983) Principles and parameters in prosodic phonology. Linguistics 21, 249-280.

Past exam questions (pick one):

'The syllable is a major ingredient of phonological generalizations.' Discuss.

'The role of the syllable in phonological theory has become more significant with each passing decade' (Juliette Blevins). Why is the syllable so important?

Explain what is meant by the notion of metrical structure.

Explain what is meant by empty onset position and what functions it serves in phonological theory.