How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
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 YEAR: 2008 PUBLISHER: Peter Lang AG
Augustine Agwuele, Department of Anthropology, Texas State University-San Marcos, TX.
SUMMARY 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.
EVALUATION 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 topics.
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 provided.)
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.
REFERENCES Greenberg, Joseph H. (1966) _Studies in African Linguistics_. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Johnson, Keith (1997). _Acoustic & Auditory Phonetics_. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers
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. Pages 3–45.
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.