Review of Articulatory Phonetics, Third Edition
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2004 15:44:12 -0500
From: Pete Unseth
Subject: Articulatory Phonetics: Tools for Analyzing the World's Languages
Authors: Bickford, Anita C.; Floyd, Rick
Title: Articulatory Phonetics
Subtitle: Tools for Analyzing the World's Languages, 3rd ed.
Publisher: SIL International
Peter Unseth, Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics
This book was written as a textbook for a course in Articulatory
Phonetics, primarily aimed at equipping students to do field work in
languages that they do not know. The book is appropriate for use by
undergraduate or graduate students, meant for an introductory course.
It is planned only for a course in Phonetics, not a textbook for the
now commonly found courses in Phonetics and Phonology, such as might
use Clark and Yallop's "An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology".
Almost all of the words given for students to practice are from
languages other than English, which distinguishes this book from
Roach's "English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course" and
Edwards' "Applied Phonetics: The Sound of American English". The book
is most comparable to Smalley's "Manual of Articulatory Phonetics",
which has been out of print for a number of years.
The title page of this book identifies it as "third edition, revised",
but the first two editions, written by Floyd, were not commercially
I have used this textbook teaching phonetics for 3 semesters. I have
found the order of the topics covered and the contents of the chapters
to be a very adequate for a phonetics textbook. I have had two
graduate students who had completed BA degrees in Linguistics at
respected universities that offered linguistics degrees all the way to
the Ph.D. level. Both of them had studied phonetics with a significant
component of acoustics and Phonology, but both found that the present
book (and the largely articulatory course) covered much material that
they had not mastered.
The book explicitly strives to teach students to:
-Identify the segments taught using the canonical technical labels of
the IPA, e.g. voicing, place of articulation, manner of articulation,
-Produce the sounds represented by each symbol
-Recognize the sounds and be able to transcribe them using IPA symbols
The book is very much formatted as a textbook, rather than a reference
book. It is 8.5 inches by 11 inches (approximately 28 cm. x 22 cm.),
facilitating larger diagrams and tables, and also giving room for
students to write answers to questions. The progression of the lessons
is from easy sounds, fricatives in chapter 3 (used with the vowel [a]),
to more complex, such as clicks in 36 and double articulations in 33.
Teachers can combine or reorder these chapters to fit their schedules.
There are two review chapters, one in the middle and one at the end.
Many lessons have production hints on how to produce sounds, such as
the lesson on flaps and trills which suggests relaxing the tongue and
saying "butted up" more and more rapidly until the speaker flaps the r.
Almost every lesson has written exercises to help the students test
their comprehension and reinforce what they have read. For example, in
the chapter on affricates, a list of consonant sequences is given and
students are asked to distinguish whether each is an affricate or not,
such as [bf], [tx], and [zv]. If it is an affricate, they are to give
the technical label for it; if it is not, they are to explain why it
does not meet the definition of an affricate.
Most chapters of the book teach a set of sounds, such as "implosives",
"laterals", "approximants", etc. Because of this compartmentalized
approach, this book does not provide broader coverage certain topics.
We compensate for this by assigning students additional readings,
mainly from Ladefoged's "A Course in Phonetics".
Since this is a textbook to prepare people for phonetic fieldwork, it
includes a very brief 3-page chapter on palatography, an important
heuristic test that can be demonstrated on a day when students need a
One very significant strength of the book is the rich array of examples
of real words from languages. In the abstract, I presume that the
sounds could be taught equally well using nonsense words designed to
highlight the sounds taught in each lesson, but I feel my students
respond better to data that is collected from real languages. The data
from various languages is often credited to individual linguists as
"personal communication". Some will feel that a book, especially in a
graduate course, should cite a higher percentage of data from published
sources. Data from a number of the published sources can be updated
from later publications, e.g. the Lendu syllabic fricative data from
Tucker's 1940 book can be greatly expanded by citing Kutsch Lojenga's
1994 book, "Ngiti: A Central-Sudanic language of Zaire." (Though it
does not lessen the specific teaching value of the book, there are some
mistakes in the citations of these sources and in the data itself.)
The book directly addresses a problem for some linguists, especially
students: it provides an explanation of non-IPA alternative symbols
that have been commonly used, especially the Americanist symbols.
These are included piecemeal in the various chapters, not in a more
helpful conversion table at the end.
The book does not come with any audio CD, so teachers must provide
students with other means for listening to the various sounds being
taught. This may be done by accessing phonetics websites such as
or the preparation of CDs for in-class use only, copyrights and
permissions complicating this matter.
The book at times falls into imprecise phrasing, such as "Aspirated
double stops are not known to occur in languages" (p. 173). Since
aspirated double stops have been documented, presumably this was to
mean that contrastive aspiration has not been found on double stops.
| ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
The reviewer is a member of the faculty of the Graduate Institute of
Applied Linguistics, teaching Phonetics. He has done fieldwork in a
dozen languages of Ethiopia, working under SIL.