LINGUIST List 25.5065

Fri Dec 12 2014

Review: Phonology: Kula, Botma, Nasukawa (2013)

Editor for this issue: Sara Couture <>

Date: 19-May-2014
From: Heather Newell <>
Subject: The Bloomsbury Companion to Phonology
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Nancy Kula
EDITOR: Bert Botma
EDITOR: Kuniya Nasukawa
TITLE: The Bloomsbury Companion to Phonology
SERIES TITLE: Bloomsbury Companions
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Heather S Newell, Université du Québec à Montréal

Review's Editor: Anthony Aristar



Ch.1 Pearce: Methodology in Field Phonology: This chapter briefly overviews topics/situations to consider when doing fieldwork in a language community. This chapter begins with a general introduction to fieldwork issues, including the advantages and disadvantages of eliciting speaker intuitions about phonological contrast, issues to consider when choosing recording devices, and pointers on the pitfalls of relying too heavily on data analysis software. The chapter then turns to a slightly more in-depth discussion of the specifics of doing fieldwork on tone, followed by sections on analyzing segment duration, foot structure, experiments and perception, ensuring that phonological analyses are sensitive to areal features, and on being aware of sociolinguistic and contact situations that might affect the phonological patterns under discussion.

Ch. 2 Zamuner and Johnson: Methodology in Phonological Acquisition: This chapter gives an overview of recent research methodologies for testing the acquisition of both speech perception and production. It takes special care to point out that, despite their related nature, perception testing generally targets populations of children below 1 year old, while production, of necessity, targets older children. The authors argue that this leads to a gap in our understanding of speech perception. They focus on eliciting parallel perception and production data in speaking children. The focus then shifts to a discussion of the merits of one specific methodology, the anticipatory eye movement paradigm, for eliciting perception knowledge. The authors then turn to a short overview of speech production tasks, and a focus on elicitation studies and non-word repetition tasks, both of which are proposed to be particularly apt for studying children at the age of 20 months.


Ch 3 Botma, Kula and Nasukawa: Features: This chapter begins with an overview of why features are considered necessary components of phonological analysis. It then goes on to discuss the problem of overgeneration, its relation to privativity, and to the number of universal featural primes. The advantages and disadvantages of binary vs. privative feature systems are touched upon, before the authors take a privative stance. The main focus of the chapter then shifts to the theoretical advantages offered by the restriction of primes. The authors criticize traditional feature geometry for not being restrictive enough to account for the behaviour of the feature [nasal] cross-linguistically. They then propose that Element theory offers a more restrictive paradigm, offering arguments that it allows for a more predictive theory of cross-linguistic vowel alternations, and a representation of nasality that links the properties of nasality and voicing.

Ch. 4 Szigetvári: Syllables: This chapter begins with a discussion of the problematic nature of defining the entity ‘syllable’. The author notes that linear segmental order accounts better for phonotactic restrictions than the notion of syllable. He then discusses whether syllables need be derived elements, arguing that syllabification algorithms can be done away with. Szigetvári also notes that structural relations within a syllabic theory of segmental organization cannot account for all positional restrictions on consonant clusters, sonority sequencing effects, weight distinctions, phonotactics, or closed syllable shortening . He then supports a radical CV theory of phonological organization, arguing that the problems with constituency are done away with, trivially, if all words are underlyingly a sequence of CV units. Licencing and government relations are proposed to account for restrictions on consonant and vowel clusters, lenition, and syllable weight distinctions. He concludes that a linear account of segmental interactions is more explanatory than a hierarchical (syllabic) account.

Ch. 5 Apoussidou: Stress: The author focuses on word stress, and on the learnability problems raised by Modern Greek. She begins with a brief overview of fixed and free stress systems, the effects of weight and morphological makeup on the position of stress, and of feet. She then introduces the (mostly) lexically governed stress system of Modern Greek and proposes an analysis where all stress in the language is underlyingly specified. She proposes an analysis within the framework of Harmonic Grammar (with Stochastic modifications) that concludes that apparent stress shifting in Modern Greek is morphologically conditioned allomorphy. Experimental evidence is argued to support this conclusion.

Ch. 6 Bye : Derivations: Bye begins with a concise yet clear overview of the history of derivational levels from structuralism to current generative frameworks. He then goes on to define and discuss feeding, bleeding, counterfeeding and counterbleeding relations. Rule-sandwiching and Duke-of-York derivations are then exemplified (and are later translated into Optimality Theoretic terms). Bye discusses how the traditional relations thought to hold between opacity, transparency and feeding. bleeding, counterfeeding and counterbleeding are not as simple as originally proposed. He then discusses rule interactions not as transparently tackled with strict ordering, namely rules that appear to apply persistently or simultaneously. He discusses how these can be dealt with in a derivational framework, and the difficulties posed for their explanation in parallel computational systems. He then looks at opacity, its problematic status in OT, and examines possible alternative accounts.

Ch. 7 Uffmann: Constraint-Based Phonology: Uffmann begins with a discussion of the basic differences and motivations for rules and constraints in phonological theory. He then goes on to discuss the historic rise in popularity of constraints, beginning with a discussion of morpheme structure constraints. A short overview of the arguments for Surface Structure Constraints is then offered, noting the conclusion that accepting SSCs into the system necessitates a formal discussion of rule-constraint interaction possibilities. Uffmann then discusses the rise of both constraints and representational theories in light of the debate on markedness. He then goes on to give brief overviews of various non-rule-based theories before moving on to an in depth discussion of the ‘winner’: Optimality Theory. He finishes with a short defence of OT, noting that criticisms against the theory need to take into account the broader historical context of the motivation for the rise of the constraint in phonological theory.

Ch. 8 Hamann: Phonetic-Phonology Interface: Hamann begins the discussion with a definition of the distinction between Phonology and Phonetics, moving into the issue of mapping at the interface. She underlines the absence of a simple phonetics-phonology correlation at the featural level, the issue of gradient application of phonological rules, and the question of phonetic grounding, then tackles different views on the nature of representations in Phonetics and Phonology. Exemplar theory is discussed and rejected. She then expands upon the general properties of a P-P interface theory that assumes different representations at each level, before going on to a more specific discussion of Boersma’s OT-based, language-specific Bidirectional Phonology and Phonetics model. Hamann finishes by highlighting the implications a theoretical model can have for a model of the P-P interface.

Ch. 9 Revithiadou and Spyropoulos: Syntax-Phonology Interface The authors begin by laying out two issues at the S-P interface; whether the interface is direct or indirect, and whether derivations are serial or parallel. They introduce some direct-interface accounts and then go on to briefly introduce Prosodic Phonology and the notions of indirect reference and non-isomorphism before moving on to the issue of mapping. They begin with a discussion of theories in which the syntax is seen as primary. Relation-based models (which project phonological domains based on syntactic relations) and end-based models (which project phonological domains in relation to the edges of syntactic domains) are each explained, and the authors conclude that the edge-based models, being more restrictive, are theoretically superior. After this the discussion turns to questions of linearization and cyclic interpretation. They introduce the copy-theory of movement and some views on how these multiple copies are interpreted at the interface, offering evidence from Greek for their own theory.

Ch 10 Marshall: Sign Language Phonology: Marshall begins with a discussion of the fact that the usual definition of phonology does not encompass sign languages, and therefore should be adjusted. She then goes on to lay out many of the ways that spoken and gestural languages are similar or different, including linear and simultaneous processing, distinctions in iconicity, language bias and categorical perception. Marshall then elaborates on the relevant phonological parameters of SLP; hand-shape, movement, location, orientation, and ‘non-manual features’. The equivalent of phonotactic constraints in SL are then enumerated, as well as evidence of markedness, the effects of language contact, and the assimilation of borrowings into the native vocabulary. She ends the overview of Sign Language Phonology with a discussion of the advantages, disadvantages, and difficulties in representing SLP with the same inventory of theories (prosodic structure, feature geometry) geared toward oral language. Marshall then describes an experiment wherein evidence for an active Possible Word Constraint was found in British Sign Language, analogously to that found for spoken languages.

Ch. 11 Mani: Phonological Acquisition: Mani begins this chapter with an overview of studies that attempt to determine the, potentially pre-natal, beginning point of infant phonological acquisition. She then goes on to discuss whether infants discern speech sounds in a way that implies a pre-set sensitivity to UG and concludes that they do not. Mani then briefly introduces some theoretical perspectives on L1 phonological acquisition; Neural Commitment, Perceptual Assimilation, and general cognitive development. The author then lays out a series of studies that disagree on the level of phonological encoding in infants’ lexical representations as a lead up to a more specific discussion of word-recognition tasks that demonstrate a high level of phonological encoding. The question of whether phonological acquisition studies give rise to evidence for the psychological reality of features is then discussed, and it is noted that there is great difficulty in determining whether children perceive featural or acoustic distinctions.

Ch.12 Altmann and Kabak: Second Language Phonology: The authors begin by noting the psycholinguistic complexity that the particularly variable nature of L2 acquisition poses. They therefore choose to focus on the phonological representation of segmental and suprasegmental information and how this affects the perception and encoding of L2 information by the speaker. They note how markedness is a key issue in L2 studies, and that one of the biggest problems for L2 phonological learning arises when the L1 and target language have similar but non-identical segments. They question whether the contrastive status of the target features of an L2 segment in the L1 affects acquisition. They then move on to a discussion of suprasegmentals in L2 acquisition, specifically. They note that sonority sequencing plays a role in the acquisition of L2 phonotactics. Studies examining the relation between the perception and production of complex or disallowed clusters are then touched on. The discussion then turns to the, mostly L2 English, studies of stress production. The relation between L2 perception and production is pointed out to be unpredictable and in need of further study.

Ch. 13 Den Ouden: Phonological Disorders: This chapter focuses on the implications of both data and theory, both in formal linguistic and psycholinguistic domains, for the understanding of phonological aphasia. The author begins with the definitions of common literal paraphasias: Wernicke’s, conduction, and Broca’s, and a discussion of the fact that most aphasics are not easily categorized. He then discusses markedness, and how it informed early experimental studies of phonological disorders involving both melodic and syllable-based errors. Den Ouden then discusses one of his own experiments, which consisted of naming, repetition, and phoneme detection tasks and concludes from the data that syllable structure is only available at a post-lexical processing level. He finishes by noting the importance of phonological theory for aphasic studies specifically, and psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic studies generally, noting that difficult to classify data from aphasic speakers poses a problem for formal theories of phonological disorders.

Ch. 14 Cho: Laboratory Phonology: Cho begins with a discussion of the traditional distinction between phonology and phonetics, and how the gradient and language-specific nature of purportedly ‘non-linguistic’ phonetic effects led to a popularization of the field of laboratory phonology. He then goes on to focus for the rest of the chapter on the phonetics-prosody interface, concentrating on the phonetic correlates of boundary and prominence marking. Both right and left prosodic boundaries are explained to be marked by lengthening or articulatory force respectively. Stressed syllables are explained to marked in a multitude of ways. This strengthening is shown to be language-specific, indicating that it is not purely governed by articulation. Cho then gives a short introduction to each of the Mass-Spring, π-Gesture, Bonding Strength, Window, and Exemplar-Based gestural models, and discusses their differing predictions for phono-phonetic effects at boundaries. It is noted that prosodic cues aid in lexical retrieval, but only if the cues are linguistically salient to the listener, demonstrating language-specific sensitivities. Cho ends the chapter by noting pertinent domains for future research.

Ch. 15 Silverman: Usage-Based Phonology: Silverman begins the chapter by laying out the two core principles assumed in any usage-based phonological endeavour. “Phonological systems consist of ‘discrete’ phonological categories.” and “Phonological categories emerge from ‘variable’ speech tokens.” He then goes on to give an overview of the historical underpinnings of the discipline, broken into the Kazan school and the Post-Kazanians, all of whom focused on the physical and psychological diachronic pressures in language change. He also goes into some detail about the notion of boundary signal, and its segmental or prosodic indicators. He then turns to modern usage-based phonology and its appeal to exemplar modelling. Semantic and phonetic misperceptions are then briefly discussed, along with compensation strategies that are triggered. Focusing on the programs of Labov and Ohala, Silverman notes that the former attributes (certain types of) language change to semantic misinterpretation on the part of the listener, while the latter attributes this change to phonetic confusion. He then offers evidence supporting a Labovian analysis, followed by a discussion of further work in this vein. He concludes the way he began the chapter, with a discussion of Darwin and his inspirational role in this functional field, where language change is ascribed to natural pressures.

Ch. 16 Scheer: Issues in the Development of Generative Phonology: Scheer clearly lays out the aims of this chapter. The history recounted is “...goal oriented and functional in the sense that it aims at isolating important issues, key questions, central ideas, circular movements, and real scientific progress.” He begins with a discussion of the notion of modularity, both of the grammar and within the grammar. The function of the phonological sub-module is laid out as interpretive: it functions as a translation device between the morpho-syntax and the physical signal. Scheer then moves on to a brief overview of cyclic derivation. He goes on to discuss the tug of war in phonological theorizing between computation and representation, noting, among other things, the important contribution autosegmental phonology made to the theory of phonological objects, and the computational extreme taken by Optimality Theory. Problematic elements of SPE’s highly computational model (overgeneration, and the potential abstractness and diachronic nature of underlying representations) are then discussed. The Natural (Generative) Phonology and revisionist frameworks are laid out, and their distinct natures are enumerated in the light of the reduction of SPE’s overgeneration problems. The importance of determining how (and how much) phonological rules can reference morphological structure is highlighted. Scheer then considers the importance of autosegmental phonology. Its introduction of the notion of ill-formedness and of the definition of structural relations are detailed. Scheer then moves on to the discussion of the unclearly motivated rise of anti-serialism, and hence an anti-rule stance in generative phonology, which gave rise to theories such as Government Phonology, and Optimality Theory, with a focus on the problems raised by the latter. He then brings the discussion back around to serial computation and the concomitant return to the importance of representation for phonological theory.


This book is a very well presented overview of a large variety of current and perennial topics in the field. The chapters are written at a level that is perfect for graduate students, or anyone unfamiliar with a certain subfield and looking for an overview and pointers on where to look in more depth. Each chapter attempts to give a general overview of the topic at hand (yet is of course constrained by space limitations), and then goes into specifics about a particular problem/research question. The main section of the book tackles many of the same topics presented in all handbooks of phonology -- stress, syllable structure, features etc... The added value of this volume is its sections 1, 3, and 4: the chapters on methodology, new directions in the field, and the history of phonological thinking since SPE which are not found in other volumes of this type.

This volume had a few small shortcomings. First, the methodology chapters are not given as much space in the volume as the others are. As they are particular to this volume it would have been nice to have a bit more depth of information here. Pearce’s chapter on Methodology in Field Phonology focused on the elicitation of tone, while more space would have allowed for discussion of other problems for elicitation. In Botma’s chapter on features, the disadvantages of feature theory are pointed out, but none of the disadvantages of element theory are discussed. In Szigetvári’s chapter on syllables, some problems for CV theory and government phonology are not discussed as deeply as the problems for syllable theory. Uffmann’s chapter on Constraint-Based Phonology talks about the shift from rules to constraints in OT, but then virtually ignores the role of structure in OT. This however, as is pointed out in Scheer’s chapter on Issues in the Development of Generative Phonology, is an issue for OT in general, and is not specific to Uffmann’s portrayal of the field. Revithiadou and Spyropoulos’ presentation of the Syntax-Phonology Interface is missing any reference to Selkirk’s (2009) match theory, which rejects the single edge-based theory presented in this chapter. In addition, their statement that all research agrees that the spell out of a phase is a Phonological Phrase ignores the interface studies of smaller domains/phases (ex. Embick 2010, Marantz 2001, Marvin 2002). Cho’s chapter on Laboratory Phonology is slightly more opaque than the other chapters. Finally, Silverman’s chapter on Usage-Based Phonology focuses mostly on motivations for the theoretical aspects of the field. More detailed examples would have made it more in line with the level of the other chapters in the volume.

Overall though, the chapters in this volume are very well written and balanced between good general overviews of the sub-fields, and specific examples of what is being done currently within each one. I will point out here a few of the exceptional sections that I believe make this volume stand out from other books of this type. First, the note in Pearce’s chapter to be aware that the morphology and syntax (here specifically in relation to tone elicitation frames) can perturb phonological patterns, and that interface issues should always be kept in mind when doing phonological work is much appreciated. Botma, Kula and Nasukawa’s chapter is especially apt for introducing students to the complexity of the topic of features, as it considers many schools of thought (features, elements, components, particles), giving the reader a more balanced view of the literature than is usual in an introductory chapter. Szigetvári’s focus on a detailed and reasoned discussion of whether the syllable is necessary and his examination of the motivations for syllable structure go deeper than a general overview of the properties of syllables. Bye’s chapter on Derivations is perhaps the clearest of the volume. It is a particularly nice exposition of the problems posed by opacity for Optimality Theory. It allows for a great direct comparison of the theories that will be much appreciated by the reader, especially the graduate student. It is nicely followed by Uffmann’s overview of the motivations for constraint-based theories. Hamann’s chapter on the Phonetics-Phonology Interface focuses on the implications of the theoretical model for the study of interface issues, along with the insistence on testability, both of which make this chapter a great introduction to the field. Revithiadou and Spyropoulos’ conclusion that explanations for Phonology-Syntax Interface issues will only be found within a framework that takes into account advances in both phonological and syntactic theory raises an important point. Mani’s chapter on Phonological Acquisition offers a concise and clear overview of the linguistics vs. general cognition question for infant learning. Both Altmann and Kabak’s chapter on Second Language Phonology, and Cho’s chapter on Laboratory Phonology clearly indicate directions for future research, which should be quite appreciated by the student reader. Finally, Scheer gives a well-organized and insightful overview of the computation-representation and cognitivist-generativist tugs of war that have been relevant to the discussion of syntactic and phonological theorizing since the 50s.


Embick, David. 2010. “Localism versus globalism in morphology and phonology”. Vol. 60. MIT Press.

Marantz, Alec. 2001. Words. Ms., MIT. Cambridge, Ma.

Marvin, Tatjana. 2002. Topics in the stress and syntax of words. Doctoral dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, Mass.

Selkirk, Elisabeth. 2009. On clause and intonational phrase in Japanese: the syntactic grounding of prosodic constituent structure. Gengo Kenkyu.


Heather Newell is a professor of phonology in the lingustics department at the University of Québec at Montréal. Her work focuses on the effects of the syntax-phonology interface at the sub-phrasal (word) level.

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