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Review of  Phonology

Reviewer: Ian D Clayton
Book Title: Phonology
Book Author: Philip Carr Jean-Pierre Y. Montreuil
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Issue Number: 25.5208

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Review's Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry


The second edition of Philip Carr’s introductory textbook Phonology, now co-authored with Jean-Pierre Montreuil, is part of the Palgrave-Macmillan Modern Linguistics series, which aims to provide an accessible introduction to each topic for students with no previous experience of it. Phonology, 2nd edn., provides in its opening segment a concise but thorough review of articulatory phonetics and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The book then introduces the fundamentals of phonological theory, thereafter expanding briskly to offer a wide-ranging survey of the principles of generative phonology, up to and including Optimality Theory. Chapter 1 introduces the phonemic principle, basic phonological terminology, rules, and phonemic transcription. In Chapter 2, the authors discuss morphophonemic alternation, deletion, insertion, and rule ordering. Chapter 3 introduces feature-based analysis, motivating each feature as it is introduced by relevant data, and offering a cogent introduction to the use of features in rules. Chapter 4 presents challenges to the phonemic principle as it was introduced in Chapter 1, in particular those posed by morphophonological alternations, for instance by nasal vowels in French. Chapter 5 considers the modular nature of standard generative models, examining in turn views of the lexicon, morphology, and the phonological component, with Sound Pattern of English (SPE) (Chomsky and Halle 1968) as a point of departure. Abstraction in generative models and their degree of relation to phonetic substance are considered in Chapter 6, as is order of operations. Chapter 7 revisits the nature and role of the lexicon in greater detail, considering theoretical approaches such as Lexical Phonology and underspecification theory. In Chapter 8, the discussion moves beyond the segment to syllable structure, metrical theory, and the syntax/phonology interface. Chapter 9 turns to autosegmental phonology and feature geometry. Newly in this second edition, weight, length, and stress are examined in Chapter 10. Also new for this edition is the discussion of constraint-based models of generative phonology. Chapter 11 provides a compact summary of the crucial components of classic Optimality Theory (OT), while Chapter 12 introduces certain problems with classic OT, opacity in particular, as well as a number of proposed solutions including local conjunction, enriched outputs, and Stratal OT.


This textbook exhibits numerous strengths. The prose style is accessible and friendly but not verbose. A broad range of essential topics is represented in its 321 pages, and though the first edition of the text was designed for use in a ten-week course, the contents of the second edition are more than sufficient for a longer term of, say, fifteen weeks. Ample problem sets are provided throughout the text, both within the discussion to illustrate crucial points and within the exercises which conclude each chapter. Examples and datasets are aptly selected to illustrate the concepts and issues presented in each chapter, and are drawn from a rich variety of languages and language families, ranging from Scots to Normandy French to Tamil to the Bantu language Lumasaaba. Solutions to select exercises are provided at the end of the book.

An important facet of this textbook is its historical perspective. At numerous junctures, the text delves into the development of important theoretical viewpoints and frameworks, describing contributions made by landmark publications, and exploring the topic to a depth rarely seen in an introductory textbook. For instance, Chapter 9 introduces autosegmental phonology first by describing in detail the challenges posed by nasal spreading, vowel harmony, and tone for SPE-style linear analyses; and then by illustrating the advantages of autosegmental analyses of such phenomena, like those proposed by Goldsmith (1979) and Hyman (1982). The chapter then moves on to an in-depth discussion of the development of feature geometry, referring in particular to the proposals in Clements (1985), Sagey (1986), and Paradis and Prunet (1989). Similar discussions are to be found throughout the text, a strategy that allows Phonology to offer the reader a chronological perspective on the discipline’s history and scholarship to a degree seldom seen in introductory texts.

The notes concluding each chapter are often extensive and always informative, in many cases gently reminding the reader that certain points presented with little comment in the main text ought not to be viewed as settled issues. As a brief example, the notes for Chapter 3 (which introduces phonological features) point out that the feature [tense] remains without a fully satisfactory definition, and though the feature [ATR] is often used interchangeably with [tense], the two are not precisely equivalent. Each chapter also concludes with well-chosen suggestions for further reading which augment the historical viewpoint of the text. Reading suggestions often point to seminal or groundbreaking works illustrating the various sides of theoretical debates, as in Chapter 6, which recommends on the one hand a selection of works arguing for a causative link between phonological patterns and phonetic substance (such as Ohala 1974), and on the other hand works like Anderson (1981) which take the view that the essential properties of language (including phonology) cannot depend solely on extralinguistic facts.

There are certain features of the book which might be construed as drawbacks, though none of these are severe. The opening review of articulatory phonetics and the IPA is quite thorough, for instance in the care it takes to explain the use of diacritics. However, no exercises are provided to help students through this review, obliging the instructor to provide them from other sources. Another consideration is that while IPA conventions are in general used consistently, there are unexplained departures. For instance, the authors declare their intent to use the IPA symbols [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] to represent post-alveolar affricates on page 4, yet the symbols [č] and [ǰ] are regularly encountered in the text instead, as in the Polish data on pp. 18-19, or the Tamil data pp. 23-24. Of similar scale is the book’s treatment of the labiodentals [f v] and the interdental [θ] as [+strident] without comment, which while consistent with proposals in SPE is at variance with some contemporary analyses which consider [strident] to be a coronal feature only. These considerations should cause no problems for alert students, but the instructor may find explanations to be in order--or viewed from another perspective, these details may offer opportunities for discussion. A final problem is the distressingly large number of typographical errors to be found in both the discussion and the problem sets. While a few such errors are to be expected in any textbook, they are so abundant in this text that the instructor is advised to proofread all datasets, feature matrices, and rules with great care before assigning them to students. Perhaps this problem will be rectified in future printings.

A somewhat more significant consideration is that the depth of discussion distinguishing this text may also make parts of it rather challenging for use in an undergraduate course with a large proportion of non-linguistics majors. On the other hand, that very depth of discussion and strong historical focus are likely to make these components of the book particularly suitable for an advanced undergraduate course in phonology, or for an introductory graduate course. By the same token, while some instructors might like to see a chapter dealing with diachronic phonology, the absence of such a chapter in this textbook is a relatively small deficit in a book with an otherwise rich range of topics.

Finally, those instructors hoping to find a discussion of non-generative models will need to look elsewhere. Theoretical perspectives like Evolutionary Phonology (Blevins 2004), emergent grammar (e.g. Hopper 1987), or exemplar theory (e.g. Johnson 1997) receive little or no attention. While this absence is not unexpected in a textbook devoted to a generative viewpoint, as Phonology (2nd Edn.) is, it does prevent the textbook from fully situating generative phonology within a larger theoretical context.

In sum, Philip Carr and Jean-Pierre Montreuil’s second edition of Phonology is a strong contribution to a field of contemporary phonology textbooks already populated by several excellent competitors. The text covers both the essentials of generative phonology and a number of more advanced topics in a clear, user-friendly manner, while regularly prompting the reader to consider important challenges to each theoretical framework as it is presented. A number of useful and well-executed instructional aids are provided, especially the strong selection of exercises, as well as chapter notes and suggested readings. In short, this second edition of Phonology is worth careful consideration by any phonology instructor in search of an effective textbook.


Anderson, Stephen R. 1981. Why phonology isn’t “natural”. Linguistic Inquiry 12(4). 493-539.

Blevins, Juliette. 2004. Evolutionary phonology: The emergence of sound patterns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chomsky, Noam, and Morris Halle. 1968. The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row.

Clements, George N. 1985. The geometry of phonological features. Phonology Yearbook 2. 225-253.

Goldsmith, John. 1979. Autosegmental phonology. New York: Garland.

Hopper, Paul. 1987. Emergent grammar. Papers of the 13th annual meeting, Berkeley Linguistic Society (BLS). Berkeley, California: Berkeley Linguistic Society. 139-147.

Hyman, Larry. 1982. The representation of nasality in Gokana. In Harry van der Hulst and Norval Smith (eds.), The structure of phonological representations, Pt I (2 vols), 111-130. Dordrecht: Foris.

Hyman, Larry. 1975. Phonology: Theory and analysis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Johnson, Keith. 1997. Speech perception without speaker normalization: An exemplar model. In Keith Johnson and John Mullenix (eds.), Talker variability in speech processing, 145-166. Academic Press.

Lass, Roger. 1984. Phonology: An introduction to basic concepts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ohala, John J. 1974. Phonetic explanation in phonology. In Anthony Bruck, Robert A. Fox, and Michael W. La Galy (eds.), Papers from the parasession on natural phonology, 251-274. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.

Paradis, Carole and Jean-François Prunet. 1989. On coronal transparency. Phonology 6(2). 317-348.

Sagey, Elizabeth. 1986. The representation of features and relations in non-linear phonology. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology dissertation.
Ian Clayton is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the University of Nevada, Reno. His research interests lie in the areas of laboratory phonology and sociophonetics, especially with respect to Scottish Gaelic and Scottish English. Ian is also interested in matters of language preservation and documentation and the consequences of of language contact.

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0230573142
ISBN-13: 9780230573147
Pages: 352
Prices: U.K. £ 25.99