LINGUIST List 15.1233

Sat Apr 17 2004

Review: Phonetics/Phonology: Kreidler (2004)

Editor for this issue: Naomi Ogasawara <>

What follows is a review or discussion note contributed to our Book Discussion Forum. We expect discussions to be informal and interactive; and the author of the book discussed is cordially invited to join in. If you are interested in leading a book discussion, look for books announced on LINGUIST as "available for review." Then contact Sheila Dooley Collberg at


  1. Mark Van Dam, The Pronunciation of English, 2nd edition

Message 1: The Pronunciation of English, 2nd edition

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 00:11:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Mark Van Dam <>
Subject: The Pronunciation of English, 2nd edition

AUTHOR: Kreidler, Charles W.
TITLE: The Pronunciation of English, Second Edition
SUBTITLE: A Course Book
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2004
Announced at

Mark VanDam, Dept of Linguistics, Indiana University.


OVERVIEW. Kreidler's book is an introductory textbook devoted to the
description of English sound structure. It is a classically
generative phonological account including some descriptions, where
appropriate, of the interplay between phonology and other areas of
linguistic interest such as morphology, prosody, syntax, and rhythm.
The book is stocked with plentiful examples, exercises, and easy
access to basic linguistic concepts such as 'phoneme', 'allophone',
'assimilation', and the like.

Chapter 1 offers an short history of the English language followed by
a discussion of some basic concepts for talking about the sound
structure of language as linguists do as well as the conventions used
in the book. The basics of a phonological analysis are described.

Chapter 2 discusses some basic articulatory and physical facts and
methods of analysis usually considered part of phonetics (rather than
phonology). Topics include human hearing, vibration, frequency,
amplitude, resonance chambers, anatomy for language science,
phonation, and voicing. Various major distinctions of speech sounds
are discussed with respect to phonetic observations: sonority,
syllables, continuance, consonantal versus vocalic, voicing.

Chapter 3 is about English consonants. Manners and places of
articulation are described as instantiations of distinctive features
that differentiate various consonant classes such as stop, fricative,
nasal, liquid, labial, apical, laminal, and dorsal. A concise section
is devoted to each of the classes mentioned. Additionally, this
chapter contains a plethora of examples, exercises, and discussion
questions to be maintained throughout the rest of the book.

Chapter 4 is concerned primarily with vowels. It is noted that
vowels, including English vowels, are generally more difficult to
describe than consonants because (1) dialects vary, (2) incidences of
occurrence are different, (3) phonetic realizations vary (such as in
stressed versus in unstressed positions), and (4) descriptive
differences are employed by different linguists. Distinctive vowel
features are given as (1) quality, (2) length, (3) complexity (mono-
and diphthongal), and (4) tenseness. Kreidler describes
environmentally conditioned occurrences of English vowels into
categories of ''checked'' and ''free''. Interspersed in the text are
references to vocalic variation as a result of rhoticization, place
assimilation with adjacent consonants, conditioned length variations,
nasalization, and on- and off-gliding. 24 different vowels are given
concise phonetic and dialectal descriptions along with a host of
helpful example words.

Chapter 5 is about syllables and stress. Syllable constituents (peak,
onset, rhyme, coda) are described as well as possible and canonical
English syllable structure. Metrical stress, tone, accent,
prominence, and morphophonology are introduced as they are associated
with syllables and syllable structure. Kreidler strongly claims that
''the fact is that, in speech, a single consonant between a strong
vowel-any strong vowel-and a weak vowel is AMBISYLLABIC'', (p 77,
emphasis in the original) and offers subsequent 'rules for dividing
English words into syllables' that is relied on later in the book.

Chapter 6 is about phonotactics. This chapter is concerned with what
consonants can occur together initially and finally between vowels and
what sequences of vowels and consonants are possible. The description
is given in terms of phonotactic constraints on
environmental/positional permissibility in English. Many examples are

Chapter 7 is concerned with segmental variation typically falling
under the notion of allophonic variation. Assimilation, aspiration,
and length are described as well as dialects that are likely to
exhibit particular processes resulting in allophony.

Chapter 8 points out surface consequences of phonological and
morphological processes as well as some deeper linguistic concepts
such as 'underlying form', 'rule ordering' (opacity), and
morphological influence in sound structures and processes of English.

Chapter 9 is concerned with sound and production facts that are
generally larger than the segment or syllable, in particular the
larger-than-syllable parsing of 'chunks' which Kreidler prefers to
call 'tonal', and the phrasal position of accent and focus which
Kreidler prefers to call 'accent'. Tone units are defined as phrasal
elements that can bear some sort of prominence via syllable timing or
stress timing controlled by the speaker. Paradigmatic and syntagmatic
accents are compared and contrasted as well as special accent methods
such as deaccenting, lexical and anaphoric reference accent, and
accent on operators (or non-content units).

Chapter 10 deals with larger-than-syllable units generally captured
under intonation and melody. Intonation is given an articulatory
basis (falling frequency of vocal cord vibration; intonation as
variation at the accented syllable) and perceptual-functional basis as
to how the speaker's intentions are passed along to the hearer. Tones
are identified and described as short rise, short fall, rise-fall, and
fall-rise. Combinations of tones are also discussed. The author
clearly (and certainly correctly) states that there is not a consensus
among language scholars about absolute identification, classification,
or understanding of issues raised in Chapters 9 and 10, and, at the
very least, more work is needed in these areas.

Chapter 11 discusses the predictability of English word stress.
Kreidler points out that stress in English, contrary to some languages
of the world, is not entirely predictable. However, the author
demonstrates that the use of syntactic, morphological, and
phonological information can provide some clues to the placement of
word stresses. Stress application processes are discussed in terms of
morphological processes (eg., affixation), syntactic categories (eg.,
nouns and verbs), loanwords and borrowings, and multiple applications
(and potential contradictions) of stress rules.

Chapter 12 is concerned with stress in compounds and phrases that
behave like compounds (due to their idiomaticity, regularity, or
compositionality). Stress in compounds composed of nouns, verbs,
syntactic units (such as phrase), adjectives, prefixes, and
'Greek-type' compounds (eg., ''phonograph'', ''telephone'', etc.) are
each individually considered and compared.

Chapter 13 revisits some phonological processes such as segment
reduction, segment elision, assimilation, and palatalization.
Specific reduced forms are investigated such as auxiliaries (e.g.,
''can'', ''could'', ''does'', etc.), pronouns (e.g., ''he'', ''you''),
prepositions (eg., ''to''), determiners (eg., ''some''), conjunctions
(e.g., ''and''), and miscellaneous words such as ''there'' and
''not''. A brief word about supposed homophones interestingly
suggests that most citations of homophones holds only for isolated
pronunciations but those same citations are not homophonic in context
because of reductions and stress assignments. For example, Kreidler
suggests ''I have two'' is nearly impossibly homophonous with ''I have
to''. Progressive, regressive, and mutual assimilation are discussed
with examples. Palatalization is presented as a kind of assimilation
with examples such as ''won't you'' = [wounCu] (not [wountju]).

Chapter 14 revisits some themes from Chapters 8 and 13 in more detail.
Phonologically conditioned alternations are compared with
morphologically conditioned alternations with consideration paid to
historical influences, specific morphology, and lexical (syntactic)
processes. Specific processes such as vowel reduction,
palatalization, zero alternation, spirantization, and velar softening
are considered. Additionally, underlying forms, rule sequencing and
rule ordering are considered with respect to the vowel shifts (eg.,
''wise'' -> ''wisdom'') and augmenting morphology (eg., ''inscribe''
-> ''inscription'', ''expose'' -> ''expository'').

The Appendix contains a list of word-endings and their effects on
stress including neutral suffixes, tonic endings and suffixes, heavy
endings, light endings, posttonic suffixes, and some special suffixes
such as two different ''-age'' suffixes in the words ''bondage''
versus ''massage''.

A Glossary, Bibliography, and Index conclude the book.


POSITIVE POINTS. Kreidler delivers with the promises in the title and
the introduction by offering an introductory course book about the
sounds and sound structure of English. There are copious examples and
exercises throughout the book that would nicely facilitate using this
book for an introductory class on phonology or English phonology, or
for a not overly-technical phonological reference. The book is
delimited in obvious ways (with numbers, bold, italic, etc. headings
and sections) that make the material quite accessible for
beginners-clearly the audience for this book-and the glossary and
index appear to be user-friendly.

The book's content does not appear to have any glaring omissions or
patently wrong facts. The usual suspects of a phonological
description are present: phonetic (articulatory) grounding of
phonology, distinctive features, segments, consonants, vowels,
syllables, stress, constraints and variation on surface forms,
phonotactics, prosody, tone, accent, rhythm, and morphological
influence on sound structure (morphophonology). The text is not
overly technical and examples are frequent enough to allow a reader
easy access to the concepts. Additionally, the 'Notes' section at the
end of each chapter offers a brief but dense and useful resource for
further research into the major academic works that deal with the
topics of that chapter.

NEGATIVE POINTS. Unfortunately, the nature of an introductory text is
such that many points are presented in a way that supposes there is no
debate about the issue at hand or offers very little suggestion that
more research is needed for a sensible response to the issues raised.

Here a few examples. First, Kreidler suggests that during
acquisition, at about the one-word-utterance stage ''in two respects
the child is quite accurate [imitating adults]. The child recognizes
syllables and it has some appreciation of prosody'' (p 23) by
producing closures (i.e., consonants) and by producing oral openings
(i.e., vowels). Without the benefit of references or citations in the
text, it is not clear exactly what is meant by this. How could a
child produce a one-word utterance without it being a syllable? Could
there be such a thing as a one-word utterance without syllable
structure? On the other hand, how could a child project definite
prosody on a single (presumably V, CV, or VC) syllable? It seems that
a child at the one-word stage has so little control over his/her
speech producing mechanism to make the projection of prosody very
difficult to determine. Supposing all these facts are established in
ways not described by the author, why would such an example be
included in the book when presumably others would be better or

Second, the text is overtly generative in the Chomsky and Halle
''Sound Pattern of English'' (SPE) sense and does not, as far as I can
determine, attempt to consider any other approach in any way
throughout the book. Functionalist approaches, connectionism,
emergent/embodied phonological systems are not even mentioned in the
text. Why not include some alternative at least in the 'Notes'
section at the end of the chapter? Recent works such as Cho and
Ladefoged (1999) claim in no uncertain terms that ''it has been known
for many years that the SPE view is not correct'' (p 209), but
Kreidler unquestioningly (and openly) espouses just that view.

Third, as mentioned above Kreidler strongly states that ''the fact is
that'' an intervocalic consonant is ALWAYS ambisyllabic (p 77), while
earlier in the same chapter he much less controversially states that
''the syllable is a unit that is hard to define with scientific
rigor'' (p 68). Syllables are decidedly NOT universally defined or
even appreciated to exist by all linguists (see Cote 2000 and
references therein). It does not seem responsible to put forth such a
strong statement.

Next, the terminology used in the book is sometimes confusing,
inconsistent, or unconventional. For example, Chapter 10 'Intonation'
refers to ''tone units'' in the first pages of the chapter and
suddenly, inexplicably switches reference terms to ''tunes or
contours'' and ''tune units''; neither the index nor glossary in the
book contain the heading ''tune'' (but ''tone'' and ''tone unit'' both
appear). The familiar term 'tone' is described in detail by standard
references such as Kenstowicz (1996) and Bussmann (1996), but the
unfamiliar 'tune' appears in the references of neither of these works.
It is unclear what, if any, difference is implied or intended. Is
this a typographical error? Other apparently unmotivated unfamiliar
terms include ''checked'' to indicate vowels that may not occupy an
open syllable. Given that Kreidler uses terms such as ''open
syllable'' freely, why not discard a term such as 'checked' since it
is not commonly used in current phonological or phonetic analyses? Or
is he making apparent reference to Jakobson, Fant, and Halle (1951)
(see Bussmann 1996)? If so, why consult an early phonetic work whose
terminology has not been widely adopted?

On a somewhat more superficial level, the presentation of some terms
and concepts in the book is inconsistent and confusing. Important
terms appear variously in bold, capitals, italics, single quotes,
double quotes, etc. without consistency. For example, the term
'incidence' appears in bold and italics (p 47) while example words
(e.g., ''father'' v. ''lather'') also appear in italics-or in bold or
plain text-on the same page. Additionally, the term 'incidence'
appears in neither the glossary nor the index, so sorting out the
problem becomes difficult. This is particularly troublesome because
this text is clearly intended as an introductory textbook and the
terminology is likely to confuse rather than clarify.


Bussmann, Hadumod (1996). Dictionary of Language and Linguistics.
London: Routledge.

Cho, Taehong and Peter Ladefoged (1999). ''Variation and universals
in VOT: evidence from 18 languages''. Journal of Phonetics 27:

Cote, M.-H. 2000. Consonant cluster phonotactics: a perceptual
approach. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, Morris Halle (1951). ''Preliminaries to
speech analysis''. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kenstowicz, Michael (1996). Phonology in Generative Grammar.
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.


Mark VanDam is interested in sound structure, laboratory/experimental
phonetics, phonology, the phonetics-phonology interface, language
theory, cognitive linguistics, and disc golf. He is currently at
Indiana University.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue