LINGUIST List 10.1020

Fri Jul 2 1999

Disc: Davenport and Hannahs: Intro. Phonetics & Phono

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <>


  1. S J Hannahs, Response to review, Linguist 10-989

Message 1: Response to review, Linguist 10-989

Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 10:32:08 +0100 (BST)
From: S J Hannahs <>
Subject: Response to review, Linguist 10-989

The following is a response by Mike Davenport and S.J. Hannahs to the
review of Introducing Phonetics and Phonology, by David Henry Deterding,
Linguist 10-989. 

S.J. Hannahs and Mike Davenport


We are grateful for the generally positive tone of this review. Many of
the comments made will be helpful in preparing a second edition. In what
follows we'd like to comment on one or two of the less positive points
made by the reviewer. 

We agree that the book would benefit from (more) discussion of both
intonation and suprasegmental structure in general. It is hoped that we'll
be able to address this in any further edition. We certainly didn't mean
to convey the impression that we find intonation unimportant, though it is
a difficult topic to address satisfactorily in an introductory textbook,
particularly with our intended ab initio audience. 

The non-use of phonetic symbols in the early sections of the book is
entirely deliberate. In a sense it's a chicken-and-egg question: early use
of symbols can lead to confusion due to the unfamiliarity of many of them,
yet you need some way of referring to the sounds in the early stages of
the discussion. Before introducing phonetic symbols we are, however,
normally careful to use expressions such as 'the sound represented by the
letter _t_' or 'the first sound in the word _man_' (cf. p. 9). 

There is a similar problem with referring to vowel sounds before vowels
are formally discussed. We have tried to avoid this as far as possible,
yet to avoid it completely would seriously hamper appropriate discussion
of some aspects of the phonetics of consonants. Where we do refer to
vowels, as on p. 33, we have exemplified the symbols in question by
providing words containing them. 

We recognise that there is a great deal of exemplification of regional
variation, particularly in the chapter on vowels. We would hope that
rather than leading to confusion this makes the student aware that English
is not monolithic. Apart from this, however, there are several other
reasons we have included this wealth of information. In the first place,
most speakers of English speak neither RP nor General American, a fact
which is often glossed over in many texts. The constant reference to
accents other than these two is a way of helping students decide on the
description of their own system. At the same time, non-native speakers
have access to information on RP and General American while also being
made aware of the wide variation in pronunciations of English. Again, this
is something often glossed over by teachers of English as a foreign
language. The reviewer erroneously suggests that RP is 'adopted as the
base model throughout'. In fact, as we state on p. 7, 'The primary focus
is on ... different varieties of English, particularly Received
Pronunciation ... and General American.'

The reviewer's comment that there are differences between the vowels given
for RP on p. 52 and those in exercise 1, p. 173, for 'Non-rhotic English'
is accurate. However, 'non-rhotic English' does not -- and indeed should
not -- imply only Received Pronunciation. Most English Englishes, for
example, are both non-rhotic and non-RP.

We thank the reviewer for pointing out the inconsistencies with respect to
the use of symbols for CV6 and CV7 and the feature [tense]. He is right in
saying that the feature analysis breaks down in failing to differentiate
all the vowels listed. However, as we discuss on p. 90, 'The use of just
these features involves a number of awkward omissions with respect to
vowel systems encountered in the languages of the world.' In an
introductory textbook certain compromises are inevitable. At the same
time, we have alerted the student to potential problems with a
characterisation based on this type of feature system. 

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