Wednesday, 18 April 2012

My best toddler story

This has come up with my nephew and his mother-in-law on Facebook recently, and this story is too good not to tell again.

My dad used to pick Michael and his brother up at daycare and they'd spend a couple of hours at the house until his mom or dad could pick them up before dinner time. 

One afternoon, I was making tacos or something for dinner and Michael saw me shaking chili powder into the pan.  He asked what it was and I said something about it being spices for what I was making for dinner that night. Then he asked if he could have some.

Me: "You want to try the spices?"

Michael: "Yes."

Me: "It's spicy. You might not like it."

Michael: "I wanna try."

So I gave him a little bit in the palm of his hand which he picked up on his fingers and put in his mouth. And then he toddled away.

A few minutes later, he came back, asking for more.

Me: "More? Are you sure?"

Michael: "Yes."

So I gave him a little more.  Maybe 1/16 teaspoon. Enough for a couple of good licks, but not enough to make him sick.  And he happily toddled away.

A few minutes after that, he came back, asking for even more.

Me: "Really? You're sure you want more?"

Michael: "Yes."

At which point I looked at the clock.  His father was not more than 5-10 minutes away.  And I thought "Well, not my kid." and so I gave him more.  Probably about 1/4 teaspoon. It looked like a lot for a little guy, but wasn't really a lot by culinary standards. 

And, as I said, not my kid.

I *think* I told his father when he came to pick him up. I know I *meant* to.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Crowdsourcing my course planning

I’m planning a seminar for the Winter term next year on “Prosody in Phonology and Phonetics” or something like that.  This started out as a seminar specifically on intonation and ‘general’ prosodic issues of ‘chunking’ like phrase-final lengthening, boundary tones, and different approaches to ‘question intonation’, focus, etc., but it turns out we need it to stand in for a graduate-level (general) phonology course, so there has to be some ‘standard’ phonology in there somewhere.  

So broadly, I plan to do a broad introduction/review of ‘standard’ features, ‘natural classes’, and ‘common processes’ (assimilation, syllabic lengthening/shortening, devoicing, and so on), and then move on to prosody, and use interactions of prosodic stuff and segmental stuff (especially Jun 1998 for Korean) as my 'punchline'.  I’d like to take a ‘broadly historical’ viewpoint—i.e. a few readings addressing development of ideas, and spending class time arriving at a generic ‘big picture’ appreciation for current thinking.

I need some help coming up with a reader of articles. Ideally, I’d like to have 2-4 articles in each of the following topics.  (subtopics are just my ideas of what might be covered under such a heading, with possible papers where I have a specific idea).

Any thoughts on a) my list and b) what articles I should have (both generally and ‘how on earth can you let them get away with not reading X’)?  Please comment or message as appropriate.  Any ideas welcome, both about topics/subtopics and readings.

Segments, syllables and timing
  • Segments and syllables (do we need both?) 
  • Skeletal (CV or X slot) style timing vs moraic timing (possibly Hubbard, if I can find something appropriate)
  • Maybe some feature geometry, root nodes and how they fit with the skeleton and timing, but mostly to set up autosegmental tone (see below)
  • Quantity (long-short, light-heavy) representations (and uses)
  • Lexical-metrical trees/grids (a la Hayes, Hammond, Prince…)
  • Phrasal prominence, deriving a prosodic hierarchy (or what I usually try to call ‘a phonological parse)—probably Liberman & Prince
  • Something bridging focus/emphasis/etc as prominence and the intonational literature (early Pierrehumbertian ‘nuclear’ accents and deaccenting, etc.)
  • Pierrehumbert’s jump from lexical tone to phrasal tone
  • Intonational meaning (Pierrehumbert & Hirschberg 1990)
  • Development of ToBI style transcriptions and representations (possibly Hayes & Lahiri (1989), Beckman & Pierrehumbert (1986),
  • General introduction to ToBI transcriptions conventions (I may write this myself at the level I’m comfortable with)
Interactions of prosody/intonation and ‘segmental’ phenomenal (I think of this as my punchline)
  • Domain-final devoicing (in Turkish?, Slavic? Germanic?)
  • Domain-final lengthening
  • Domain of segmental rules—Hayes & Lahiri (again), Korean (Jun 1998), Slave (Rice 1987), others?
(Possibly) Affected/dysfunctional prosody?
  • Prosodic interruption in TBI, aphasia, etc (Ben?)
  • Prosody in typically and atypically developing infants
  • Cross-linguistic/typological comparisons of prosodic/intonational systems?

I don’t plan to do anything specific about the ‘British School’ and other alternatives to autosegmental-metrical/ToBI style representations, downstep/downdrift; but I expect one student or other with more knowledge of that kind of thing will follow up in their own final projects. Similalry, I have enough students who I know are interested in disordered communication that someone will want to follow up on that sort of thing, it might be worth doing a ‘formal unit’ on the topic, but it’s not something I really feel like I need to do in this class. But if there are good papers available….

I also haven't read the new Prosodic Typology volume (Jun, ed.), but it's on the list. Now that we're in the new fiscal year, I should probably get to ordering that...