Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics

Modern & Medieval Languages

Phonology and Morphology

Linguistics Tripos Part II: Paper 8
MML Tripos Part II: Paper Li.8

Paper Coordinator 2013/14: Dr Bert Vaux

Past exam papers, full reading lists and lecture handouts are available from the Linguistics Resources on CamTools.


The aim of phonology is to determine the principles that govern sound structure in language. Phonology deals with the abstract mental representation of sound, rather than the properties of the physical speech signal (cf Phonetics). Phonological theory is concerned with questions like:

  • 'How do similarities in sound systems arise (e.g. every language but Hawaiian has a [t])?'
  • 'Can we identify systematic limitations on sound structure across languages (e.g. no language bans words that start with a consonant, but some languages ban words that end in a consonant, and many languages ban words that start in a vowel)?'

Morphology is concerned with the principles that regulate word structure in language, and how that structure relates to other components (e.g. syntax, phonology). Morphology is concerned with questions such as:

  • 'Which principles determine the syntactic category of words?'
  • 'Can phonological restrictions change the order of morphemes?'

This paper provides an introduction to modern phonological and morphological theory, and the relation between the two. The course will introduce a number of key issues in the development of scientific thinking about phonology and morphology, and evaluate the contributions of various theoretical frameworks, including Chomskyan derivational phonology and Optimality Theory. Students are also taught techniques for the analysis of phonological and morphological systems. A variety of languages is discussed, and students are encouraged to consider theoretical points in relation to languages with which they are familiar.


You will receive sixteen lectures in total, eight in Michaelmas Term and eight in Lent Term. You will also have eight supervisions, normally three during Michaelmas Term, four in Lent Term and one in Easter Term. The Department will also be providing eight hours of optional practical classes.

This course is assessed through a three-hour written examination.

Preliminary Reading

Gussenhoven, Carlos and Haike Jacobs. 1998. Understanding Phonology. London: Arnold.
Kager, René. 1999. Optimality Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kenstowicz, Michael and Charles Kisselberth. (1977) Generative Phonology. St Louis: Academic Press.
Spencer, Andrew. 1991. Morphological Theory: An introduction to word structure in generative grammar. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.


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