Introduction and Release Notes

An Introduction to Language Files

Since its inception more than forty 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 the 13th edition, we have revised, clarified, and updated many of the existing files and accompanying exercises. Additionally, we have adopted throughout the book the use of the singular they when referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant.

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

Chapter 1: Introduction

  • File 1.4 Design Features of Language has clarified the discussion of arbitrary and nonarbitrary aspects of language.
  • File 1.5 Language Modality has had several sections rewritten for clarity.

Chapter 2: Phonetics

  • This chapter has had wording revisions throughout for clarity.
  • File 2.1 Representing Speech Sounds has expanded the examples of English syllable structure.
  • File 2.3 Articulation: English Vowels has a revised figure (2).
  • File 2.4 Beyond English: Speech Sounds of the World’s Languages has revised the last section on other types of articulation to discuss rhotics and to clarify the discussion of secondary articulations such as palatalization.
  • File 2.7 The Phonetics of Signed Languages has added links to online ASL dictionaries for examples throughout.

Chapter 3: Phonology

  • This chapter has had wording revisions throughout for clarity.
  • File 3.2 Phonemes and Allophones has revised and expanded the descriptions of complementary distribution and overlapping distribution, and tables (7) and (9) have been reworked.
  • File 3.6 Practice has added an exercise on a tone language..

Chapter 4: Morphology

  • File 4.1 Words and Word Formation: The Nature of the Lexicon has redefined lexical categories on the basis of morphosyntactic features expressed, now introduces the notion of the lexeme, and has added a new section on allomorphy, which includes a discussion of suppletion.
  • File 4.2 Morphological Processes has been revised for clarity throughout; the section on alternation has been rewritten; new sections on templatic morphology, suprasegmental morphology, and morphological metathesis have been added; and the section on suppletion has been removed.
  • File 4.5 Morphological Analysis has a revised discussion of allomorphy.
  • File 4.6 Practice has had various exercises deleted or corrected, and exercises added on allomorphy and the new morphological processes in File 4.2.

Chapter 5: Syntax

  • File 5.3 Syntactic Constituency has been expanded to include a section on syntactic non-constituents.
  • File 5.4 Syntactic Categories and File 5.5 Constructing a Grammar have revised their use of terminology and abbreviations to make it more obvious that syntactic categories are different from lexical categories.
  • File 5.5 Constructing a Grammar has been expanded to include a section on nongenerative rule systems.

Chapter 6: Semantics

  • File 6.1 An Overview of Semantics has been revised for clarity.
  • File 6.2 Lexical Semantics: The Meanings of Words has reframed and clarified the initial discussion on the source of word meanings.

Chapter 7: Pragmatics

  • File 7.5 Presupposition has been revised in various places for clarity, and the section on prosody has been rewritten.

Chapter 8: Language Acquisition

  • File 8.1 Theories of Language Acquisition has deleted a paragraph at the end of Section 8.1.6 that inaccurately reported experimental results.

Chapter 9: Psycholinguistics

  • File 9.6 Sentence Processing has clarified some of the discussion of ambiguity

Chapter 10: Language Variation

  • This chapter has had minor revisions throughout for clarity.

Chapter 12: Language Contact

  • File 12.4 Creole Languages has been rewritten to focus on creoles in their initial and current social contexts.

Chapter 13: Language Change

  • File 13.7 Internal Reconstruction and Comparative Reconstruction has been updated to better align it with the presentation of allomorphy in Chapter 4.

Chapter 14: Animal Communication 

  • File 14.3 Can Animals Be Taught Language? has had portions revised and updated.

Chapter 16: Language and Computers

  • File 16.1 Speech Synthesis has removed discussion of the earliest work in this area.
  • File 16.3 Communicating with Computers has removed a long example of an early dialogue system.
  • File 16.4 Machine Translation has had minor trimming and updates.
  • File 16.5 Deep Learning in Computational Linguistics is a new file introducing the important role deep learning and artificial neural networks play in this field, along with their limitations.
  • File 16.6 Other Areas of Computational Linguistics is a new file briefly describing other tasks in the field, along with a longer discussion of corpus linguistics, incorporating material from the previous File 16.5.

Contributors to the 13th 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 the following for their substantial contributions: to Andrea Sims, for her advice on and important contributions to the revised Morphology chapter; to Daniel Puthawala and Symon Stevens-Guille for the new sections on syntactic non-constituents and non-generative rule systems added to the revised Syntax chapter; to Ellen Dossey for her work on permissions and licensing; and to Rexhina Ndoci for her invaluable help with many pieces of final revisions and proofreading. 

We would additionally like to thank the following individuals: Katie Conner, Carly Dickerson, Micha Elsner, Kevin Lilley, Clayton Marr, Rexhina Ndoci, Daniel Puthawala, Connor Rouillier, Junyu Ruan, and Yuhong Zhu, for comments, suggestions, examples, and advice regarding various aspects of the book (Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University); Julia Papke, for the new figure in File 2.3 (Department of Linguistics, The Ohio State University); Bill Vicars (Department of ASL and ASL University, Sacramento State College:; and the many 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, Cynthia Clopper, 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

Antonio Hernandez
Cory Shain 

Department of Linguistics
The Ohio State University