24.941J | Spring 2007 | Graduate
The Lexicon and Its Features


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session


Instructor approval.

Supplementary Sessions

Background material in phonology and possibly phonetics and psycholinguistics of lexical access will be presented for those who are interested (especially students lacking a background in these fields) in separate sessions to precede the relevant lectures.

Course Requirements

All students enrolled in the course are required to:

  • Do the readings.
  • Actively participate in class.
  • Submit a research paper, presented in one of the last two sessions and written up.

We encourage inter-disciplinary teams of students doing joint work. We will set aside some time early in the term to discuss with the class the logistics of such collaboration.


Please see readings.


This course is taught by five instructors, each of which is responsible for certain lecture sessions, as shown in the calendar below. Please consult the following key for instructors’ names:

EF = Edward Flemming
DG = David Gow
SS = Stefanie Shattuck-Hufnagel
DS = Donca Steriade
KS = Ken Stevens

1 KS Course overview

a. Distinctive features; phonological evidence and evidence from production, acoustics and perception; articulator-free features and articular-bound features

b. Basics of acoustics of speech production: acoustic sources from airflow, filtering of sources by the vocal tract

c. Some basic anatomy: breathing, lungs, larynx, oral tract, nasal cavities

d. Basics of hearing; hearing for speech

e. Air flow and its control in speech production

f. Introduction to quantal theory, enhancement

2-3 KS Features for vowels and sonorant consonants

a. Vowel systems, relation between acoustics and articulation; Vowel nasalization, glottal source for vowels

b. Waveform displays, spectrum displays, spectrograms

c. Sonorant consonants; Glides, liquids, nasals

4 DS Why features

a. Learning phonology with distinctive features

b. Inferring features

c. Natural classes

5 DS Feature values in lexical entries

a. Experimental evidence for underspecification

b. Evidence for underspecification in lexical access vs. phonological evidence

6 DS Features vs. contrasts Phonological relevance of non-contrastive features: release, syllabicity, timing
7 EF, DS Features vs. contrasts (cont.)

a. Syllable structure

b. Contrast as an alternative theory of features

8 EF Lexical neighborhood, frequency, predictability, effects on production and perception  
9 EF, DS Theories of speech perception

a. Objects of speech perception

b. Models of speech perception - relation to lexical access, the role of ‘intermediate’ representations, Nearey’s typology of intermediate representations

10 DG Context effects  
11 DG Normalization  
12 DG Feature-cue integration and assimilation  
13-14   Student presentations