LINGUIST List 12.160

Tue Jan 23 2001

Review: Yost: Fundamentals of Hearing

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  1. J3cube, Review of Yost

Message 1: Review of Yost

Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000 22:30:24 EST
From: J3cube <>
Subject: Review of Yost

Yost, William A. (2000) Fundamentals of Hearing: An
Introduction (4th Ed.) New York: Academic Press, pp. 349.

Reviewer: James J. Jenkins, University of South Florida.

This is the fourth edition of a well-known introductory
text in hearing. The author is an outstanding researcher in
psychoacoustics who has edited and contributed to several
other books in the field (e.g., Human Psychophysics)

Synopsis and Evaluation
The book aims "to cover sound, auditory anatomy and
physiology, and auditory perception for students with a
limited scientific background." (p. xi). The reviewer
attempted to evaluate the book with respect to its
usefulness to linguists and phoneticians engaged in
education and research.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part, The
Auditory Stimulus, covers the basics of sound generation
and transmission. This part of the book takes the reader
through the simple mathematics and physics of sound, sound
transmission, various modulations of sound signals and the
rudiments of sound analysis. The mathematics required is
fairly simple and the writer suggests that "good skills in
algebra and high school science" are sufficient. The second
part, Peripheral Auditory Anatomy and Physiology, turns to
biology and details the anatomy and physiology of the
system through the middle and inner ear to the neural
response and the auditory code. Here it is especially
helpful that the book is richly illustrated and crucial
parts of the system are laid out in microphotographs and
drawings. Part three, Auditory Perception of Simple Sounds,
deals with various discrimination capacities (frequency,
intensity, and temporal resolution), several forms of
masking, and sound localization. It also discusses the
phenomena of loudness and pitch. Thus, the early parts of
the book deal with traditional topics which are probably
only of peripheral interest to linguists and phoneticians.

Part four, Complex Sound Processing represents the major
change between the present edition and earlier editions of
the work. It describes the anatomy and functions of the
central auditory nervous system, as well as discussing its
abnormalities. This section will serve to disabuse the
reader of any notion that the auditory system is simple or
that its complexity has been accounted for by the time the
signal reaches the eight nerve on its way to the brain. The
author presents a number of short accounts of phenomena
that dramatically illustrate that the responses of the
central system are often not deducible in any simple way
from the phenomena presented in the earlier chapters. At
this point, where one presumes that the linguist or
phonetician would be most interested, there is only brief
discussion of speech. The author points out that the speech
waveform is "extremely complex" and that "knowledge of
speech perception is incomplete." Thus, because of the
elementary level of the book, neither speech nor music, its
complex partner, is treated in any detail.

At the end of each chapter there is a "Supplement" section.
Further readings are suggested and occasionally there is a
discussion of techniques or phenomena to be pursued beyond
the introductory level. This reviewer found these sections
to be a very attractive feature of the text and a useful
guide to further reading and study.

Finally, there are six brief appendices sketching the
rudiments of sinusoid waves, logarithms, Fourier analysis,
psychophysics, neural anatomy, and techniques for the study
of hearing. The appendices are quite brief (two to eight
pages each). They may serve to remind or refresh the reader
with respect to their topics but are unlikely to be
instructive to the uninitiated. However, for those readers
who have considerable acquaintance with the area of
hearing, both the book and the appendices may prove helpful
for reference purposes.

An instructor's workbook (not available to this reviewer)
is obtainable from the publisher along with a CD-ROM that
contains all of the figures in the text, problems, data,
and files for acoustic programs and demonstrations. (Note
however, that PowerPoint and Matlab are required to execute
the files.)

Overall, the volume will be of limited interest to
linguists who are not working in acoustic phonetics. For
the budding phonetician, however, the book lays out the
basics of hearing in an accessible form that will improve
the student's ability to assimilate the more advanced books
in acoustic phonetics, speech production and speech

James J. Jenkins is Distinguished Research Professor of
Psychology at the University of South Florida. He has been
concerned with psychology of language and memory for 50
years. For the last 25 years he has been active in speech
perception research.

Yost, W. A., Popper, A. N., & Fay, R. R. (1993) Human
Psychophysics. New York: Springer Verlag.
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