AUTHOR: Luciano Canepari
TITLE: A Handbook of Pronunciation
SUBTITLE: English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian,
Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Esperanto
SERIES: LINCOM Textbooks in Linguistics 11
PUBLISHER: Lincom GmbH
Beatrice Szczepek Reed, Centre for English Language Education, University of
Canepari's book is part of the author's own all-encompassing approach to the
description, representation and analysis of phonetics. The book represents the
application of Canepari's method, as detailed in his simultaneously published
handbook of phonetics, _Natural Phonetics and Tonetics: Articulatory, Auditory,
Functional_ (Canepari 2007). _A Handbook of Pronunciation_ covers the phonetic
description of twelve languages: English, Italian, French, German, Spanish,
Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese and Esperanto; and their
most widespread variations. In doing so, it uses Canepari's own version of the
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), referred to as can-IPA, and the author's
own manifold transcription notations and diagrams for the representation of
The Foreword and Prelude of the book set the scene for the descriptive chapters
that follow. Here, the author presents his approach as new and better suited to
the study of phonetics than previous approaches, and introduces his methodology.
In the Foreword the author makes a strong argument against the traditional bias
in linguistics towards written representations of language, and for a linguistic
approach that prioritizes spoken over written language as its object of study.
He argues for a representation that takes phonetic detail seriously, and is
clearly separate from the graphic representations of the spelling system. The
author introduces a variety of new forms of phonetic representation, all for the
purpose of enabling readers to 'see' sounds (p. VIII; X). One is a modified
version of the IPA script; another is the author's use of figures depicting
articulatory settings, such as orograms, labiograms, dorsograms, palatograms,
vocograms and tonograms; a third is a wealth of tables and diagrams for phonetic
and intonational classification. All representations are briefly introduced in
the first chapter. The final pages of the introductory part of the book provide
a list of can-IPA symbols and their corresponding symbols in IPA, or off-IPA.
The remaining twelve chapters each describe the pronunciation of one language.
Chapter two on English is by far the longest chapter in the book. First, all
vowels and consonants are introduced, transcribed in can-IPA symbols with
references to traditional IPA transcription and their occurrences in the
Longman, Cambridge and Oxford pronunciation dictionaries. The chapter continues
with sections on American and British monophthongs, diphthongs and diaphonemes.
Consonants are introduced as nasals and stops, with a variety of stop
realizations, such as the American /t/, 'unexplosion', the laryngeal stop and
glottalization of /p, t, k/. Affricates are introduced as 'stop-strictives' and
fricatives as 'constrictives'. A section on approximants is followed by a list
of over 100 'interesting cases'.
In a second part of the chapter, the author turns to connected speech, and
provides sections on weak forms and simplifications, taxophonics, stress and
intonation. He then goes on to describe other accents, such as neutral
international accents and standard British and American accents as they are used
in the mainstream media. A short text is transcribed for these accents. The
appendix to the chapter offers brief descriptions of Canadian, Australian, New
Zealand, RP and Cockney English.
The subsequent chapters follow the same basic structure, introducing vowels and
consonants, and the structure of connected speech. Chapter 3 on Italian covers
modern and traditional Italian pronunciation, Milanese and Roman accents, and
British and American pronunciations of Italian. Chapter 4 on French describes a
modern neutral accent, international and media accents, and the French spoken in
Marseilles and Quebec, Canada. Chapter 5 on German covers mainly standard
German, but also describes North-eastern German, Austrian, Swiss and South Tyrol
German. Chapter 6 on Spanish describes neutral Iberian and central-southern
American Spanish. Chapter 7 on Portuguese analyzes Brazilian and neutral
Lusitanian Portuguese. Chapter 8 on Russian distinguishes between modern and
traditional Russian pronunciation. Chapter 9 describes modern Arabic, chapter 10
modern Hindi. Chapter 11 analyzes standard Mandarin Chinese, including tones.
Chapter 11 on Japanese focuses on neutral Tokyo Japanese. Chapter 12 covers the
pronunciation of Esperanto, followed by samples of foreign pronunciations of
Esperanto from all the language backgrounds covered in the book.
The book under review represents an impressive achievement in its phonetic
description and analysis of twelve languages, and in many cases their main
regional accents. Particularly in its representation of vowels, the author's
can-IPA script allows for a remarkable amount of phonetic detail. With regard to
regional accents, however, the book takes a prescriptive approach. Regional
accents are referred to as ''extremely distasteful'' (p. 22), and readers are
encouraged to commit themselves to their eradication.
In its approach to phonetics and pronunciation analysis the book under review is
highly idiosyncratic, with a strong and frequently expressed wish to distance
itself from traditional linguistics. In spite of the author's desire to analyze
phonetics 'naturally', without recourse to previous theories or representations,
the book is at times a challenging read because of the wealth of new terminology
and unique representations. Therefore, the book cannot be recommended to
non-phoneticians, or undergraduate students of phonetics. As teaching material
it may accompany a language teaching course in any of the languages covered,
although the terminology and original transcription may cause some confusion in
learners and teachers who are used to the traditional IPA script and standard
Students of phonetics will find this publication helpful for the large number of
languages covered, however its self-imposed distance from any other phonetic
approach makes it difficult at times to put claims made by the author into
perspective. The book is permeated by evaluative comments on un-named linguistic
approaches and publications, such as: ''It would be better still if certain books
were not produced at all'' (p. 28) or ''if something like Hell really existed,
those who are guilty of <phonocide> should be severely punished'' (p. ix). The
IPA script is criticized particularly heavily as ''an off alphabet!'' (p. 24,
emphasis in the original), and as ''approximate and vague'' (p. 41).
The strong criticisms made against existing approaches to phonetics seem at
times unjustified. For example, the argument that traditional linguistics is not
aware of the difference between spelling and sounds is difficult to follow, as
the random relation between the two is commonplace in both language teaching and
linguistic theory (Ladefoged 2001:24). Nevertheless, the author claims that ''As
a matter of fact, even <experts>, in particular, teachers (either school or
university teachers, even <specialists>!) […] and intellectuals in general (who
use and abuse language), lack this simple and basic awareness of the need to
separate the phonic level from the graphic one'' (p. viii, emphasis in the
original). Evaluative statements continue into the bibliography, where some
entries such as Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2006) and Upton and Kretzschmar (2003)
receive several paragraphs of commentary from the author.
As a pronunciation handbook the book under review is an extraordinary
accomplishment in its coverage of such a large variety of languages.
Furthermore, it is characterized throughout by the author's acute awareness of
phonetics as based in the practice of speaking, rather than in the theory of
language. This combination of detailed analysis and practice-based approach to
phonetic events and their classification represent the book's most significant
Canepari, L. (2007) _Natural Phonetics and Tonetics. Articulatory, Auditory,
Functional_. München: Lincom.
Labov, W., Ash, S. and Boberg, C. (2006) _The Atlas of North American English_.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ladefoged, P. (2001) _A Course in Phonetics_. Fourth Edition. Fort Worth:
Harcourt College Publishers.
Upton, C. and Kretzschmar, W.A. (2003) _Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for
Current English_. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Beatrice Szczepek Reed is research fellow at the Centre for English Language
Education, at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her research focuses on the
phonetics and prosody of natural conversation, prosodic turn-taking cues in
intercultural communication, and spoken language teaching. She regularly teaches
courses in English pronunciation and conversational skills.