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Phonology is the study of the mental representations of the sound units of language and the rules that govern how mental phonemes are realized in various contexts. Phonology is also concerned with metrical and syllable structure.

Research in phonology at Penn covers a wide range of topics and perspectives with an emphasis on the detailed analysis of individual languages to inform the development of theoretical models. Eugene Buckley has long-standing interests in the formal study of Native American languages, especially Kashaya, as well as the Ethio-Semitic language Tigrinya. He is also interested in the role of various approaches in explaining phonological patterns, which has led him more recently to questions of first-language acquisition.

Rolf Noyer's work spans phonology and morphology. His phonological work is concentrated in two somewhat different areas. On the one hand, he studies metrical structure, including poetic meter and its basis in phonology; much of his recent work in this area has focused on Old French poetry, including Anglo-Norman poetry written in a curious type of "expanded" meter. On the other hand, he continues to investigate accent, tone, and their interaction in languages with pitch accent, especially Huave and Ancient Greek. His dissertation was one of the first full expositions of Distributed Morphology, a new theory of the architecture of morphosyntax which is still developing rapidly; he continues to work and publish in this frontier area of our field.

In addition, our phoneticians, Mark Liberman and Jiahong Yuan, have done work at the interface of phonetics and phonology, especially with regard to prosody, tone, and intonation. The program encourages students to apply formal models of phonology to such domains as historical-comparative linguistics; variation and change in progess; and interfaces with morphology, syntax, and pragmatics.

Coursework is built on the year-long introduction, Ling 530-531, taught by Noyer and Buckley to emphasize data analysis in both derivational and constraint-based approaches. Subsequent training is provided in Ling 603, the Topics in Phonology seminar; each semester, a different area is covered. Recent topics include: Non-Categorical Phonology; Generative Metrics; Prosodic Categories; Indo-European Accentology; Theoretical Alternatives; Distinctive Feature Theory. In addition, the Ling 535 workshop offered in the fall semester provides the opportunity for students to develop a research project in phonology or phonetics with regular feedback from students and faculty.

Formal phonology, phonology-morphology interaction, phonological explanation, Native American and Ethio-Semitic linguistics
Phonetics, prosody, natural language processing, speech communication
Theoretical phonology, morphology, morphosyntax, generative metrics; Huave, Mansi.
Aaron Freeman
Gu­r˙n (Duna) Gylfadˇttir
Gayeon Son
Jingjing Tan
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2006
Department of Linguistics
619 Williams Hall (campus map)
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Telephone: (215) 898-6046
Fax: (215) 573-2091
For more information, contact Amy Forsyth at