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Field Phonetics and Laboratory Phonology


Admission requirements

BA in Linguistics or related discipline


In the last two decades, linguistic fieldwork has come to be understood as a key element of the descriptive linguistic enterprise. This course will give students the skills to carry out high quality phonetic fieldwork using state of the art technological equipment. The course consists of three parts. First, certain theoretical concepts of phonetics will be introduced, including production, aerodynamics and kinematics of speech sounds. Second, empirical issues will be discussed, such as acoustic analysis of phonetic data with the help of computer software. Third, students will be able to acquire hands-on experience in the practical aspects of field phonetics. This will include exercises in collecting audio data for acoustic analysis, field palatographies, and even experience on field ultrasound machines. The readings and data used will focus primarily on field phonetics and laboratory phonology conducted on native languages of the Americas.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Explain fundamental aspects of theoretical phonetics, especially regarding speech production and aerodynamics of speech.

  • Employ a variety of different phonetic data collection techinques suitable for field research. This includes recording audio/video samples of speech, performing static palatographies, and using equipment such as nasometers and ultrasound machines.

  • Interpret the collected data with the help of computer software such as Praat.

  • Analyse the phonetic data empirically based on sound understanding of phonetic theory.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website.

Mode of instruction

Seminar, heavily supported by practical exercises.
There will be 2 contact hours (1 2-hour seminar) every week.

Course Load

  • time spent on attending lectures and seminars: 28 hours

  • time for studying the compulsory literature: 128 hours

  • time for writing a paper based on original research: 124 hours

Assessment Method

Students will be assessed in three parts:

  • They will write an essay on a theoretical aspect of phonetics relating to the first part of the course (30%).

  • They will complete a number of small weekly exercises to improve understanding of concepts and practice using phonetic analysis software (Praat) (30%).

  • They will conduct a project which will include collection and analysis of “field” data, as well as a final report (40%).


This course is supported by Blackboard.

Reading list

The following books will be the main coursebooks, although some introductory chapters may be skipped depending on the level of background in phonetics of the class:

  • Hewlett, Nigel and Beck, Janet (2006).An Introduction to the Science of Phonetics. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

  • Ladefoged, Peter(2003).Phonetic Data Analysis: An Introduction to Fieldwork and Instrumental Techniques. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Articles such as the following three will be used as case studies:

  • Maddieson, Ian, Avelino, Heriberto, and O’Connor, Loretta(2009). The phonetics structuresof Lowland Chontal of Oaxaca. International Journal of American Linguistics, 75: 69-101.

  • Flemming, Edward, Ladefoged, Peter, and Thomason, Sarah (2008). Phonetic structures of Montana Salish. Journal of Phonetics, 36: 465-491.

  • Avelino, Heriberto (2010). Acoustic and Electroglottographic Analyses of Nonpathological, Nonmodal Phonation. Journal of Voice, 3: 270-280.

Further reading:

  • International Phonetic Association (1999). Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Johnson, Keith (2003). Acoustic and Auditory Phonetics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

  • Ladefoged, Peter (1997). Instrumental Techniques for Linguistic Phonetic Fieldwork. In: The Handbook of Phonetic Sciences, William Hardcastle and John Laver, eds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.


Students should register through uSis. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

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MA Linguistics departmental office, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144;