Alan C. L. Yu

Faculty Photo
Professor, Department of Linguistics
-Director of Graduate Studies-
Rosenwald 205F
Office Hours: Thursdays 1:00pm-2:00pm
(773) 627-6221
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2003
Teaching at UChicago since 2003
Research Interests: Laboratory and Theoretical Phonology, Language Variation and Change

Dr. Alan Yu is interested in questions related to language variation and change, particularly with regard to the so-called actuation problem: what causes the inception of language change, if the linguistic conditions favoring particular changes are always present? He approaches this question from the point of view of individual differences, focusing particularly on how differences in the socio- and neuro-cognitive make-ups lead to variability in perceptual and production norms across individuals and how such variability relates to socio-indexical factors. He has done extensive work on Cantonese and Washo, a Native American language spoken in California and Nevada. In his spare time, he also works on the morphology-phonology interface, his first love in linguistics.

Recent Publications


  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2007. A natural history of infixation. Oxford: The Oxford University Press.
  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2013. Origins of sound change: Approaches to phonologization. 2013. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • John Goldsmith, Jason Riggle, and Alan C. L. Yu (eds). 2011. The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Selected Articles/Chapters:

  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2019. "On the nature of the perception-production link: individual variability in English sibilant-vowel coarticulation." Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology 10(1), 2. DOI:
  • Yu, Alan C. L. and Georgia Zellou. 2019. "Individual Differences in Language Processing: Phonology." Annual Review in Linguistics 5: 131-150.
  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2017. "Global optimization in allomorph selection: two case studies." In Vera Gribanova and Stephanie Shih (eds.) The Morphosyntax-Phonology Connection: Locality and Directionality at the Interface. Oxford University Press. 3-27.
  • Chen, Daniel, Yosh Halberstam, Alan C. L. Yu. 2016. "Perceived Masculinity Predicts U.S. Supreme Court Outcomes." PLOSONE 11(10): e0164324.
  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2016. "Vowel-dependent variation in Cantonese /s/ from an individual-difference." Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 139(4): 1672-1690.
  • Yu, Alan C. L. 2013. "Individual differences in socio-cognitive processing and the actuation of sound change." In Alan C. L. Yu (ed.) Origins of sound change: Approaches to phonologization. Oxford University Press. 201-227.

2019-2020 Course Offerings

Introduction to Linguistics (LING 20001) - Autumn 2019

This course offers a brief survey of how linguists analyze the structure and the use of language. Looking at the structure of language means understanding what phonemes, words, and sentences are, and how each language establishes principles for the combinations of these things and for their use; looking at the use of language means understanding the ways in which individuals and groups use language to declare their social identities and the ways in which languages can change over time. The overarching theme is understanding what varieties of language structure and use are found across the world's languages and cultures, and what limitations on this variety exist.

Placement Seminar (LING 47850) - Autumn 2019

The Linguistics Proseminar is required for all first-year graduate students. The course exposes students to current research trends and issues in linguistics and to the discipline's culture of professional academic interaction through mandatory attendance at curated departmental colloquia.

Phonological Analysis II (LING 30102) - Winter 2020

This course is intended for students with a strong background in phonology. We will explore the major themes of phonological theory from 1870 to today, focusing on such questions as the distinction between phonology and morphophonology, the nature of phonological representations, and the character of hard and soft constraints on phonological representations.

2020-2021 Course Offerings

Phonological Analysis I (LING 30101) - Autumn 2020

This course introduces cross-linguistic phonological phenomena and methods of analysis through an in-depth examination of fundamental notions that transcend differences between theoretical approaches: contrast, neutralization, natural classes, distinctive features, and basic non-linear phonological processes (e.g., assimilation, harmony, dissimilation).

Sociophonetics (LING 21720/LING 31720) - Winter 2021

​​​​​​​Variation is a ubiquitous feature of speech, yet much of the variation observed is non-random. This class will examine this type of structured heterogeneity (Weinreich et al., 1968) from the point of view of sociophonetics. We will focus on the interrelationships between phonetic/phonological form and social factors such as speaking style and the background of the speaker, with a particular interest in explaining the origins and transmission of linguistic change. Our goals will be to (a) acquire the phonetic and phonological foundation necessary to conduct sociophonetic research through practical exercises; (b) survey new sociolinguistic research that addresses issues in phonetic and phonological theories and (c) locate and explain phonetic variation in its social context while drawing on current approaches to the relationship between language and society. This course will give students hands-on experience with sociophonetic research. As part of the empirical foundation of this course, we will focus on sociophonetic variation across the Chicago population. For the final project, students are required to conduct a small-scale study investigating a research question of relevance to sociophonetic research using the corpus collected during this quarter.

Seminar: Cue Integration in Language Processing (LING 50520) - Winter 2021

Language processing requires listeners to pay attention to multiple cues simultaneously. This seminar examines how cue integration is accomplished at different levels of linguistic analysis, with a comparison between speech perception and sentence comprehension. In addition to general models of cue integration, we will also look at how cue weighting and integration vary across individuals, and  what mechanisms underpin such variability.