Honeybone – Introduction to historical phonology (week 1)

Course material here.

This course will address some of the central questions that arise when we confront ‘phonology’ with ‘the past’. Linguists have been studying this kind of thing seriously for centuries, so there is no way that we could cover everything relevant on this course, but we will aim for some degree of breadth and some degree of depth. We will firstly consider something of the broad context that historical phonology exists in – all the kinds of thing that we would need to understand in order to figure out both what the phonology of particular languages was at various stages in the past, and what kinds of changes have occurred between such stages. After that we will focus on some key questions that are interesting in this area from an explicitly phonological perspective, like the following: are there characteristics that phonological changes (or particular types of changes) always show? can we distinguish between possible and impossible phonological changes? what can phonological theory say about how changes are integrated into or lost from a grammar?


As this in an intro course, chapters on ‘sound change’ or ‘phonological change’ from any introduction to historical linguistics would give a relevant background. Have a look at this page (made by Tobias) where you can download Campbell’s 1998 Historical Linguistics. An Introduction, Campbell & Mixco’s Glossary of Historical Linguistics, Hock’s 1991 Principles of Historical Linguistics and Trask’s 2015 Historical Linguistics.

Much of relevance can be found in the chapters of:

  • Honeybone, Patrick & Salmons, Joseph (2015) ‘The Oxford Handbook of Historical Phonology’. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • The introduction to the handbook sets out several central questions for historical phonology, as well as introducing the chapters of the Handbook. A version of it can be downloaded here:

Much of the handbook can be read on Google Books

  • One chapter from the Handbook that considers some material that we will definitely be covering is:
  • Dresher, Elan (2015) ‘Rule-based generative historical phonology’, available in manuscript form here.

The preface to the periodical ‘Papers in Historical Phonology’ aims to very briefly set out something of the ‘broad context for Historical Phonology’ – all of the subdisciplines that need to interact in order to work out how phonology interacts with the past (as well as introducing the periodical itself). It could be worth a look:

  • Honeybone, Patrick, Julian Bradfield, Josef Fruehwald, Pavel Iosad, Benjamin Molineaux & Michael Ramsammy (2016) ‘Preface.’ Papers in Historical Phonology 1, 1-4, available here:

The following paper sets out some key issues that are relevant to understanding the extent to which we can talk about ‘possible’ and ‘impossible’ changes:

  • Honeybone, Patrick (2016) ‘Are there impossible changes? θ > f but f ≯ θ.’ Papers in Historical Phonology 1, 316-358, available here.