Review of Fundamentals of Phonetics, Phonology and Tonology
|AUTHOR: Anyanwu, Rose-Juliet
TITLE: Fundamentals of Phonetics, Phonology and Tonology
SUBTITLE: With Specific African Sound Patterns
SERIES: Schriften zur Afrikanistik - Research in African Studies
PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG
Augustine Agwuele, Department of Anthropology, Texas State University-San
For African students of speech sounds finding a textbook that does not
marginalize their languages or that treat their languages without presenting
them as exotic, is rare. This defect owes in part to lack of expertise on
African languages on the part of a lot of Western linguists and textbook
authors, (It should be noted that the most works on African languages owe much
to Europeans and American scholars, especially if one considers the pioneering
work of Ladefoged in the 1960s or the current research program of Amanda Miller
and colleagues), and to the absence of Africans with the means to write such a
text. Outside of these constraints, African languages are only of interest to
Western scholars to the extent that they provide data to illustrate processes
and phenomenon not readily explicable from indigenous European languages.
Against this background, Anyanwu's book plugs a significant gap in the
discussion of speech sounds by using African languages as main point of
departure for analysis and exemplification; it provides African students with a
text to which they can readily relate and it offers to scholars interested in
African languages a reference material.
The book contains four parts, these are: Part 1: phonetics, part 2: phonology,
part 3: tonology, and part 4: specific African sound patterns. Collectively, the
first three parts presents a unified theme-the discussion of speech sounds for
students of phonetics, that centralizes African languages, rather than invokes
African languages to illustrate, from western perspective, aberrant speech sounds.
Part 1 contains nine chapters each of which covers essential topics in phonetics
such as vocal tract anatomy, vowels and consonants, places and manners of
articulation, IPA & transcription, coarticulation, prosody and suprasegmentals,
and acoustic phonetics.
Part 2 entitled Phonology has four chapters; these chapters can be broadly
divided into two sections based on their contents. The first section presents a
host of phonological concepts to provide a fundamental understanding of the
essentials of phonology. Anyanwu distinguishes between distribution, processes
and rules; within these were subsumed are such issues that come up when doing
phonetic analyses: assimilation, clusters, nasalization, lenition, deletion, and
elision, among many others that received explication in the chapter. Other
issues include distinctive features; the non-invariance and alternation problem,
a terse overview of three schools of thought in phonology to illustrate some of
the various theories that have contributed to the advancement of phonology, and
a discussion of issues associated with connected speech or higher phonological
processes, such as length or rhythm (intonation, stress, tone etc). The second
broad section is a discussion of individual phonological theories: Autosegmental
Theory, CV Phonology, Government Phonology and Optimality Theory. Overall, Part
2 successfully presents an extensive list of concepts, phonological features,
themes, and issues that are inimical to phonology.
Part 3 deals specifically with tones. Some of the subthemes include: the meaning
of tone, the functions of tones, features that affect tone, tone rules, tonal
behavior and changes. It ends with a discussion of tone and intonation.
The last part, part 4, titled ''Specific African sound patterns'', provides a
cursory overview of the language families of Africa following Greenberg's 1966
breakdown and the revision proposed in 1989 by Kay Williamson. The discussion
includes transcription systems of African languages, vowel inventory, vowel
harmony, ''specific'' African consonants such as labio-velars, implosives,
ejectives, guttural, and, of course, clicks. This part is, at best, a
superficial overview of these significant areas of research. The usefulness of
the section in general may lie in the references that it provides.
This book has the potential to be a useful companion to such major textbooks on
phonetics (Ladefoged; 1993), acoustics, (Johnson; 1997), Phonology (Lass 1998),
and on tones (Yip 2002). It should not only be of interest to advanced students
of speech interested in the exemplification of concepts in phonetics, phonology
and tone with data from African languages, the book should be a useful reference
material given that it provides some useful examples, illustrations, brief
explanations and definitions of key terms, in the aforementioned areas. Overall,
the author's treatment of the sections on phonology and tonology is a lot
stronger than the treatment of phonetics.
The book has many pluses and a significant amount of minuses:
Pluses: The book is innovative in its scope, intent and approach. In fact,
compared to other text books say on phonology or phonetics, this book is not
exactly a textbook in the traditional sense. It seems encyclopedic in nature,
pulling together a vast array of fundamental concepts that are useful to the
various fields and providing a broad overview of important current issues and
theories in phonology.
Throughout the chapters, the same mode of discourse is adopted: a term is
introduced, explained, exemplified and then summarized using a table. The
consistency of this approach allows for a careful understanding and revision of
Another commendable and innovative aspect of the book is the use of
cross-references. The cross-references are visually highlighted, numbers are
placed in rectangular grayed-out boxes next to important concepts, topics or
issues. This makes it possible for the reader to find the first time a concept
was introduced and used; it also allows the reader to find when and where a term
was defined and to follow subsequent discussion of the said term or concept.
Using the cross-references, the reader is able to have a complete overview of a
chosen topic. This creativity significantly enhances researching a topic or an
issue. Complementing the cross-referencing is the innovative use of visual cues.
This comes in form of grayed-out rectangular boxes that stretch across the width
of the page. Entitled as, 'Beware', 'Note' or 'Tip' these boxes provide
additional definitional information, e.g. page 49 ''DEFAULT means 'what happens
when nothing special happens'. In linguistics it is used to refer to the normal
or neutral state of affairs.'' Sometimes the boxes are used to caution reader
about a generalization, for example, page 59: ''Beware: In phonetics and
phonology, 'noise' does not mean the kind of sound that is called 'noise' in
everyday English''; or to provide additional explanations or references as well
as to define significant concepts and terms. At other times, the grey-boxes are
used to ask and provide answers to questions.
Finally, the book makes use of capitalization to highlight useful terms when
they are evoked prior to their definitions; this is to indicate to the reader
that the definition and discussion of these terms will subsequently follow under
their own headings and subsections.
As I mentioned, conceptually, this book marks a significant step in providing a
book targeting African readers, nonetheless, the book has many areas that
require attention; these areas provide a significant amount of irritation to the
reader. They can be categorized as follows:
1) Indefinite with definition: Although the book targets beginners, the author
appears to have difficulty in defining significant terms and concepts. Rather
than a precise statement of definition for a concept, the reader is treated to
an unusual amount of equivocation and circumventions. What is X is a question
for which any reader will like an answer immediately. Especially for beginners,
the simpler, clearer and the more precise the definition of a term is, the
better it makes for comprehension and even visualization. Consider Anyanwu's
attempt at defining stops (p.60): ''From the point of view of articulatory
closure, the only sounds that will qualify as 'stop' are those in which there is
a complete closure, such as the initial consonants in _pat_...'' Readers may ask:
a complete closure of what? The same problem is found in the summary table on
pages 64-65; Anyanwu describes approximant as: ''another as a consequence of
egressive airstream passing through it.'' And for Trilling: ''vibration of an
articulatory organ against.'' Previously on page 62, Trill was defined or
explained as: ''A trill is precisely what the term suggests: a trilling sound
produced as a particular place of articulation''.
2) Crusade: A significant amount of effort appears to be expended on correcting
or informing readers about what the author perceives to be errors concerning an
issue rather than helping the learner grasp the issue. For example, in
discussing consonants the author writes ''let us begin by dissolving a useful but
false myth; consonants need not be restricted to a single POA'' (p. 94). Another
instance of crusade is on page 173: ''Unfortunately, some authors tend to confuse
rules with processes. This should not be the case.'' Yet another example is found
on page 148: ''There is a wide spread misconception that phonemes can only be
established using perfect minimal pairs, this is not the case.'' Rather than this
crusade to correct assertions that are real only to the author, in so far as no
evidence is provided, readers would have been better served had the author
worked on making the topics clear, by stating clearly that a consonant could
have more than one place of articulation, or by carefully defining the concept
of rules or processes, illustrating and exemplifying them. Assuming that there
is an urgent need to address these so called errors, it is fair to expect that
the author cites some works that peddle such ''myth''.
3.) Contradiction: With respect to the place of articulation mentioned in (2),
Anyanwu had written earlier on page 58 that, ''normally (POA)... occurs only at
one place. Contradiction shows up in another form; for example, in discussing
coarticulation on page 110, the author cross-references it as: (see section 6.3,
p.101.) The provided cross-reference discusses broad and narrow transcription.
In discussing pitch on p.108, the author refers readers to Example 23, p.110,
but this is located on page 111.
Another form of contradiction is the unusual use of certain phonetic concepts.
The author makes use of ''accompaniment'' instead of ''state of the glottis'' and
uses ''state of the glottis'' where western scholars such as Peter Ladefoged
(1993: 129,) and Keith Johnson (1997: 123) use ''phonation types''. Ladefoged
(1964: 14) also used ''phonation types.'' In classifying consonants, most
textbooks invoke only 4 features: (Airstream mechanism; place of articulation,
manner of articulation and state of the glottis), the author proposes 5 (p.69).
This unfamiliar usage not only impairs clarity, it muddles up conventional usage
and popular understanding of established phonetic concepts.
4.) Syntax: The phrase ''thus'' is ubiquitous in the book; it is a connector
between two sentences, a consequence of a preceding argument or plain gap
filler. On the average, there is an occurrence of 'thus' in every other page if
not in every page.
Gender: the use of masculine pronoun 'he' for both male and female, e.g. ''for a
foreign language learner... he needs..., there is no guarantee that he...'' (p.
143; also p.126).
The writing style could profit from revision.
5.) Depth: The book appears to favor statements of the general sort rather than
more specific discussion; as such Anyanwu appears not keen on specificity or
careful distinctions. Consider the discussion of nasalized vowels in page 90. No
single example of an American or British nasal vowel was provided. Another lack
of specificity occurs in the Igbo examples. For starters, there is not one
single standardized Igbo language, rather there are various dialects of Igbo;
so, when the author writes on page 90 that ''In Igbo, there exist contextually
nasalized vowels, e.g. (okwu) 'fire' and (oga) 'kite''', it is not clear from
which of the various Igbo dialects this example was taken. There is no context
in which Asaba Igbo for example has nasalized vowel for any of these words.
p.76: ''Voiced implosives tend to prefer anterior closures as well as points of
articulation.'' (What points of articulation are meant remains undefined.)
P.84. ''In singing, the breathy voice is hardly perceived, for example in Dinka
(Nilotic).'' (This sentence occupies a paragraph, but no further explication is
P. 191: ''...this is probably one of the reasons according to KLV (1990), the
syllable ought to be broken down into the constituents....'' The author, KLV, is
not listed in the bibliography. In all likelihood, KLV is an abbreviation for
some authors; other examples of the use of this undefined abbreviation occur in
p. 230, 231, 232, 233 (1985) etc. Chances are that by KLV the author is
referring to: Kaye, J., J. Lowenstamm & J.-R. Vergnaud (1990). Constituent
structure and government in phonology. _Phonology_ 7. 193-231. When this
citation finally occurs in the grey-box on page 237; there is nothing to suggest
that it has previously been abbreviated as KLV.
In explaining spoonerisms, the author provided the following example from
German: ''saubstauger'' for ''staubsauger''. It will be interesting to see the
evidence for this, given that the rules guiding spoonerism precludes such
substitution. Normally, elements in the same phonological position are
substituted not those in different positions. E.g. Consonant exchange with
consonant; vowel exchange with vowel. Exchange occurs within the same syllable
position: For instance, in a sequence of C1VC2 vs. another sequence of C1VC2 [C1
is swopped with C1, C2 with C2]
The use of the term 'Verhaertung' for final devoicing in page 185 may be a good
way to convey this term to German speakers; however, outside of Germany, this
phrase has no further currency.
Consider the discussion of lexical phonology: the author on page 222 suggests it
was developed within the framework of generative phonology to handle phenomena,
such as stress and length, yet, nowhere in this discussion was Liberman & Prince
(1977), the original work of this program mentioned or referenced.
It is doubtful that the book is intended to be a comprehensive text that covers
with depth issues of phonetics, phonology and tonology. One of the major
strength of the book is the vastness of the topics and terms that are provided.
This invariably proves to be the weakness of the book; it may very well be that
the book has stretched itself so thin that only a superficial treatment of these
concepts was plausible.
In conclusion; other than these editorial errors, the book should find
acceptance among beginning, advanced and even professional linguists due to the
assortment of topics and encyclopedic information. It could be more of a
companion to a primary text, especially. It could be a useful companion to a
primary text; for a maximum benefit there is the need to enhance the information
that the book contains by providing literature to the issues and topics.
A book of this kind that specifically focuses on phonetics, phonology and
tonology is essential to the students of linguistics with interest in speech
sounds. This book is necessary and desirable. One of the main assets of this
book is its scope and focus; it is the only text known to me that deals with
phonetics, phonology and tone with a focus on African languages. Aside from the
noted irritations, the book is well conceived, informative, clearly structured,
and accessible. There is no doubt that it is a good introductory text for
students of phonology and tone as well as valuable resource for advanced
scholars of African phonology. The author appears to be strong in phonology and
tonology and less so in phonetics. For example, the author's discussion of
autosegmental phonology was quite careful and accessible to readers. The various
fundamental principles received adequate representation, discussion and
exemplification. The author also provided the sources for the cited examples,
thus providing useful resources for further reading. Due to her good knowledge
of the field, the author provided good historical background to some of the
theories through which the contextualization of the issues was possible. When
theories are presented within the historical context of their evolution, it
becomes easy for students to understand their purposes; in addition learners
develop an appreciation for the process of intellectual endeavors and are
challenged to be critical learners. Another major strength of the book is in its
ability to isolate some knotty issues in phonetics, phonology and tone; however,
this strength was not adequately identified; merely receiving a cursory
attention from the author.
In spite of these irritations, neither the value of the book nor its usefulness
to meeting the needs of linguists is compromised or diminished. This book will
adequately prepare users for the field of phonology and tonology; equipping them
with skills necessary for advanced studies in these areas. It will also make an
excellent refresher read for more experienced and advanced scholars of human
speech sounds and for linguists in general, an invaluable resource.
Greenberg, Joseph H. (1966) _Studies in African Linguistics_. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press.
Johnson, Keith (1997). _Acoustic & Auditory Phonetics_. Cambridge: Blackwell
Liberman, M. and A. Prince (1977). On Stress and Linguistic Rhythm. _Linguistic
Inquiry_ 8, pp. 249-336.
Ladefoged, Peter (1964). _A Phonetic Study of West African Languages_.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ladefoged, Peter (1993). _A Course in Phonetics_, Fourth Edition. Fort Worth:
Harcourt College Publishers.
Lass, Roger (1998). Phonology: An introduction to basic concepts_. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Yip, Moira (2002). _Tone_. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williamson, Kay, (1989) .Niger-Congo Overview. in John Bendor-Samuel and Rhonda
Hartell (eds.), _The Niger-Congo Languages – A Classification and Description of
Africa's Largest Language Family_. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Augustine Agwuele is a linguist with specialization in phonetics. His current
research focuses on the variability associated with the production and
perception of sequences of speech sounds. He seeks to understand the programming
principles that account for speech variability. He is an assistant professor of
linguistics at the department of Anthropology, Texas State University-San
Marcos, TX. USA.