Introduction and Release Notes


An Introduction to Language Files

Since its inception thirty years ago, Language Files has grown from a collection of materials designed simply as a supplement for undergraduate courses into a full-fledged introductory textbook. The scope of the text makes it suitable for use in a wide range of courses, while its unique organization into instructor-friendly files allows for tremendous flexibility in course design.

Language Files was originally the idea of Arnold Zwicky, who was among its first authors. Since the first edition, many editors have contributed to the development of Language Files; the current edition is the result of this cumulative effort.

Changes in the Current Edition

In this edition, we have revised, clarified, and updated many of the existing files and the accompanying exercises. We have also substantially updated the accompanying online resources, and we have added icons next to the text to inform the reader of particular places where additional resources are available on our website. The speaker icon, video icon, and link icon indicate that sound files, video files, and relevant URLs can be found at soundsvideos, and links, respectively.

The cartoons accompanying each file have also been replaced with original artwork by Julia Porter Papke.

In addition to these global changes, the following chapters have undergone significant revision or changes.

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • File 1.1 Introducing the Study of Language now includes a section providing helpful hints on how to use this book.
  • File 1.3 Other (Non-Essential) Aspects of Knowing a Language has been renamed and revised to clarify the relationship of writing and prescriptive grammar to the study of language. The discussion of writing has also been updated to reflect the prevalence of electronic communication, and the discussion of prescriptive grammar has been revised to clarify the distinction between prescriptive and descriptive grammars, among other things.

Chapter 2: Phonology

  • File 2.2 Articulation: English Consonants has been revised in places to clarify the descriptions of consonant articulations and to better align some of the terminology with that of the IPA.
  • File 2.3 Articulation: English Vowels has been revised in places to more explicitly discuss variation among speakers.
  • File 2.5 Suprasegmental Features has an updated discussion of intonation.

Chapter 3: Phonology

  • File 3.1 Phonotactic Constraints and Foreign Accents has been revised in places to clarify the roles of phonetic inventory and phonotactic constraints in foreign accents and the connection to phonology as a whole.
  • File 3.2 Phonemes and Allophones has been substantially rewritten to clarify, among other things, the notions of predictability, distributions of sounds, and the distinction between allophones and phonemes.
  • File 3.3 Phonological Rules has replaced the example of multiple rule application with one that does not involve an allomorphic distribution.

Chapter 4: Morphology

  • Various minor updates have been made to clarify differences between inflection and derivation; to remove possessive -’s from the list of English inflectional suffixes; to better explain bound roots; and to acknowledge the lack of clear boundaries in morphological typology.

Chapter 5: Syntax

  • File 5.3 Syntactic Constituency has replaced the coordination test with the pro-form substitution test.
  • File 5.4 Syntactic Categories and File 5.5 Constructing a Grammar now include more overt discussion of the simplified nature of the system presented here and further issues for readers to consider.

Chapter 6: Semantics

  • File 6.2 Lexical Semantics: The Meanings of Words clarifies types of antonyms.

Chapter 7: Pragmatics

  • File 7.2 Rules of Conversation has been revised to clarify the role of Grice’s maxims in conversation and particularly their relevance for the listener; the discussion of flouting and violating maxims has also been revised to show the important difference between the two.
  • File 7.4 Speech Acts has been revised to clarify the nature of speech acts, performative speech acts, and the distinction between sentence types and speech acts.

Chapter 8: Language Acquisition

  • Files 8.2 and 8.3 First-Language Acquisition: The Acquisition of Speech Sounds and Phonology and The Acquisition of Morphology, Syntax, and Word Meaning have updated tables providing an overview of the development of child language abilities from birth to four years old.

Chapter 9: Psycholinguistics

  • This chapter has been substantially updated, expanded, and revised to reflect recent research and updated theories of language processing.
  • File 9.1 Language and the Brain has been updated to give a more detailed view of the brain regions involved in language processing and the flow of information between these regions.
  • File 9.2 Language Disorders has been expanded to include information on specific language impairment, Williams syndrome, and their relevance to theories of language acquisition.
  • File 9.3 Speech Production now includes discussion of factors affecting speech produc-tion and the use of speech errors in psycholinguistics.
  • File 9.4 Speech Perception has been revised and expanded to include discussion of factors affecting speech perception.
  • File 9.5 Lexical Access is a new file replacing the previous 9.5. This file is reorganized around the idea of lexical access and includes discussion of neural network models.
  • File 9.6 Sentence Processing has been revised to include constraint-based models of sentence processing.
  • File 9.7 Experimental Methods in Psycholinguistics has been updated and expanded with several more methodologies and includes new images of these methods and the data obtained from them.

Chapter 10: Language Variation

  • File 10.3 Factors Influencing Variation: Regional and Geographic Factors now clarifies characteristics of the Mid-Atlantic dialect that are different from the rest of the Midland dialect.

Chapter 11: Language and Culture

  •  File 11.4 Politeness now clarifies the relationship between different politeness strategies and face-threatening acts.

Chapter 16: Language and Computers

  • This chapter has had minor updates to reflect more recent technological developments.

Contributors to the 12th Edition

Many people have contributed to this edition, including students and faculty of the Department of Linguistics at The Ohio State University and colleagues at other institutions. We are particularly appreciative of Kiwako Ito and Shari Speer (Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University) for their contributions to the revised Psycholinguistics chapter.

We would additionally like to thank the following individuals for their contributions of data and examples and for their advice regarding various aspects of the book: Lifeng Jin, Brian Joseph, Yusuke Kubota, Julia McGory, Vedrana Mihalicek, Julia Porter Papke, Judith Tonhauser, Kodi Weatherholtz, Chris Worth, and Murat Yasavul (Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University), Bill Vicars (Department of ASL and ASL University, Sacramento State College:, and various people who have emailed us with errata and suggestions over the years.

We are also grateful to our department chair and the supervisor for this edition, Shari Speer, who has provided insight and support throughout the entire process of preparing the book.

Finally, we would like to thank the people at The Ohio State University Press, especially Tara Cyphers, Tony Sanfilippo, and Juliet Williams, for their care and attention in this project. We appreciate their advice, patience, flexibility, and cooperation throughout the production of this edition.

Hope C. Dawson 
Michael Phelan

Department of Linguistics
The Ohio State University