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Review of  Introducing Phonetic Science

Reviewer: Rita V. Mathur
Book Title: Introducing Phonetic Science
Book Author: Michael Ashby John A Maidment
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Issue Number: 16.2292

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Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 12:24:14 -0700 (PDT)
From: Rita Mathur
Subject: Introducing Phonetic Science

AUTHORS: Ashby, Michael; Maidment, John
TITLE: Introducing Phonetic Science
SERIES: Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2005

Rita Mathur, visiting scholar, Mumbai

This new textbook is ideal for undergraduate students of linguistics. Its
aim is to introduce the rudiments of phonetics including the acoustic
properties of sounds. Thus, the book introduces speech articulation and
deals with other aspects of language that are associated with speech.
Functional aspects of phonetics are also introduced, including how sound
segments along with supra-segments function in different languages of the
world, how these segments can be analyzed under theoretical frameworks,
and how general rules can be formulated. The book also addresses the
written aspect of language and introduces various types of writing
systems. Each chapter is followed by exercises and a further reading list.
Solutions to the exercises are given at the end. A glossary of the
linguistic terms is also provided, which is a handy guide for students.
The book is not only good for the student of linguistics but also useful
for speech scientists and speech pathologists working in the area of
hearing impairment.


1: Introduction to speech. The first chapter introduces the wide horizon
of languages and the ways they are written and spoken. It also talks about
the units of speech: syllables, vowels and consonants. Transcription using
the IPA chart is introduced. Finally, the chapter introduces the notions
of normal and pathological speech.

2: Voice. This chapter covers the basic anatomy of the larynx and its
function, and brings out the basic articulatory and acoustic differences
between voiced and voiceless sounds. The also discusses various measuring
devices, including the laryngograph and stroboscopic devices for measuring
and filming vocal fold vibrations.

3: Place of Articulation. This chapter includes an anatomical description
of the vocal tract and describes the principal places of articulation of
consonant sounds. It covers active and passive articulators and their
function in complex articulation, and goes on to discuss primary and
secondary articulation. It includes a brief overview of the methods and
techniques by which place of articulation can be experimentally
determined, including electropalatography, x-ray photography and magnetic
resonance imaging.

4: Manner of articulation. This chapter elaborates the various manners of
articulation focusing on the distinction between obstruent and sonorant
sounds. It also describes how manners of articulation are used in the
languages of the world.

5: Vowels. This chapter focuses on the basic concepts for the
classification and description of vowel sounds, describing the vowel
quadrilateral and cardinal vowels. It also introduces the acoustic
properties of vowels, including vowel spectra and formants, acoustic
resonance, excitation resonance and filtering by resonance; it also
describes the relationship between vowel articulation and acoustic

6: Voice II. This chapter deals with aspiration, and specifically with
aspiration and devoicing in English, and also the use of aspiration in the
languages of the world. Various phonation types are introduced. The
chapter concludes with a discussion of the laryngeal waveform, and of
voice onset time and how to measure it.

7: Air Stream mechanisms. This chapter introduces various air-stream
mechanisms necessary for speech articulation, including direction of the
airflow (egressive and ingressive). It mentions particularly the
nonpulmonic sounds used in the world's languages and deals with the
acoustic and auditory properties of these sounds.

8: Speech sounds and speech movements. This chapter deals with speech
articulation involving more than one place of articulation and focuses on
how sounds influence their neighboring sounds, overlapping articulation
and variation in segment duration. Estimated movement of the articulators
is diagrammed. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the
different ways to obtain acoustic and physiological data concerning the
flow of speech.

9: Basic phonological concepts. This chapter introduces basic phonological
concepts, including the phoneme and the notion of sound patterns in
language. It deals with how sounds can be grouped into syllables, the
phonological processes, features, and how phonological rules can be

10: Suprasegmentals. This chapter covers the notions of fundamental
frequency and suprasegmentals, including stress, tone, intonation. It also
deals with paralinguistic features and their use in conveying speaker

11: Speaker and hearer. The final chapter sheds light on the hearing
mechanism, on speech perception and the use of visual cues in speech
perception. Finally it deals with speech development in normal children
and in children with hearing impairment.


The book covers the basic concepts and experimental techniques of both
articulatory and acoustic phonetics, and provide an excellent overall view
of the subject. The authors' approach, in my opinion, is not only good for
students but for teachers as well. The book fulfils its purpose of
teaching phonetics, as well as igniting the desire to learn more about it.
The authors have provided relevant references for further reading after
each chapter.

In the very beginning of the book, a transcribed paragraph introduces the
basic concept of transcription, making clear the basic difference between
orthography and transcription. I agree with the authors that this
distinction is very important. As a teacher, the first question I face
from students is "what is relation between speech and writing?" The
authors go on to discuss various sorts of writing systems (alphabetic,
syllabic and logographic, though very briefly.

Another useful feature of this book is its introduction to hearing and
speech perception. These domains are introduced from a communicative
perspective. From the text, students are able to learn what acoustic
events are necessary for perceiving a particular speech sound.

The most positive feature of the book is that it provides a solid
foundation in articulatory phonetics, with the help of diagrams and
charts. Such notions as the constriction of the air stream to different
degrees, the position of soft palate, and the speed of the articulatory
gesture are all well introduced. Although the treatment of acoustic
phonetic concepts is less extensive, I consider this to be an excellent
textbook, sufficient for beginning students of phonetic science. The
exercises at the end of each chapter, and the solutions complement the
text well.


Ladefoged, P. (2001) A Course in Phonetics. Thompson Learning.

Laver. John. (1994) Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge University Press.


The reviewer is a visiting faculty member in various university
departments of linguistics in Mumbai, India. She is also visiting linguist
in a speech and hearing institute in Mumbai. Her research interest is in
phonetics. Currently she is working on acoustic cues for the perception of
sounds in children.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0521808820
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 230
Prices: U.S. $ 70.00
U.K. £ 40.00

Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0521004969
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 230
Prices: U.S. $ 27.99
U.K. £ 15.99