This might sound a bit stupid. I just completed phonetics and phonology from Grady's "Contemporary Linguistics". I'm still in my schools and preparing to join bachelor of arts linguistics in a university. So I'm self studying and occasionally I watch videos from YouTube. And I'm wondering whether I should pause momentarily and study additional books on phonetics and phonology first like Ladefoged, acoustics and stuff or whether I should continue with morphology or whether I should study both. How do you people in college do that? What about other subjects that you have taken? How do you manage all of them?

  • 2
    When I taught Intro Ling, I started with morphology because students don't know why they need phonetics and phonology until they see the effects it has on grammar. Plus, morphology is the strangest part of any linguistics class -- the things some languages get up to! -- and that helps keep the students interested. When they see how useful it is, phonetics and phonology come easier. I don't think you need more phonetics at the beginning; you'll always be learning more, after all. – jlawler May 17 at 15:04
  • 1
    If you'd like more study, feel free to download the coursepacks for my Intro Course. Part 1 covers morphology, phonetics, and phonology; Part 2 covers syntax, semantics, and selected short subjects. Almost all of the coursepacks are exercises; the class was Introduction to Linguistic Analysis. – jlawler May 17 at 15:10

University students usually do what they are told to do, so it depends on what they are told to do. The range of variation in what students are told to do is considerable, and it's hard to evaluate 200 different study plans (though I don't think you will get 200 answers here).

My main recommendation is that you get a reputable foundation. Use a book, not a YouTube video constructed by someone who doesn't know the subject matter. My second recommendation is to try to learn by doing, rather than learning by memorizing. A variant of that prescription is to learn by producing (writing papers), not just solving problems (filling in answer sheets). My third is to approach the subject incrementally. You need to know a fair portion of the phonetic alphabet and have some idea about phonetic properties in order to understand features which are fundamental to phonology, but you don't need to know the entirety of the Ladefoged text (in fact, you'll still come up short if you are based just on the Ladefoged text). If you can't do basic morphological analysis of e.g. Turkish, you will struggle with doing phonological problems: but you don't need to know how to solve phonological problems to understand basic phonetics.

IMO phonetics, phonology and morphology form a coherent triad; and syntax and semantics forms a coherent pair. Semantics has a tangential connection to phonetics, but as a practical matter it's better to focus on smaller bits. It is also better to not get too focused (e.g. reading everything there is to read on phonetics first).

My intro to linguistics started with English syntax, because it most clearly demonstrates the notion of "grammatical rule" and methods of analysis. This is a very un-traditional way of presenting things. I suspect that such an approach does not work well with most textbooks. I suggest using John Lawler's materials (Pt. 1, Pt. 2), because it best fits the kind of approach that I just advocated.

  • In that case, is Contemporary Linguistics by William. O. Grady a good book? It was suggested in MITOCW website (MIT open course ware). Also, since I only have studied theoretical phonology and phonetics until now, I don't know how you're supposed to "do" it. For example in Turkish phonology, am I supposed to review papers written by others. Am I supposed to search for online audio samples of Turkish and analyse them using some software (if so, what software?), or are there some student study kits. – big fellow May 17 at 18:34
  • And in phonetics, wouldn't a practical study require a foundation of acoustics or articulatory phonetics? Because I've only been introduced to major sound classes in phonetics and some articulatory processes. Also, some people are suggesting me to start with morphology or syntax, but I think I would continue with my current plan cause phonetics is what got me interested in the first place. – big fellow May 17 at 18:34
  • 1
    I used the 2nd edition of O'Grady (decades ago) and was unhappy, but that was when there was little competition. That version was too "top-down" i.e. driven by technical terminology. You need a self-study phonetic guide centered around DIY phonetics, and for some reason nobody has written such a thing. I think step 1 is to install Praat, make a decent recording of "Hello world", and create a "text grid" where you can identify the beginnings and endings of the individual segments (hmmmm that step has at least three substeps). – user6726 May 17 at 20:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.