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Review of  Pronunciation of English


Reviewer: Mark VanDam
Book Title: Pronunciation of English
Book Author: Charles W Kreidler
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Phonology
Issue Number: 15.1233

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Review:
Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2004 15:34:23 -0500 (EST)
From: Mark Van Dam
Subject: The Pronunciation of English, 2nd edition

AUTHOR: Kreidler, Charles W.
TITLE: The Pronunciation of English, Second Edition
SUBTITLE: A Course Book
PUBLISHER: Blackwell Publishing
YEAR: 2004

Mark VanDam, Dept of Linguistics, Indiana University.

DESCRIPTION and SUMMARY.

OVERVIEW. Kreidler's book is an introductory textbook devoted to the
description of English sound structure. It is a classically generative
phonological account including some descriptions, where appropriate, of
the interplay between phonology and other areas of linguistic interest
such as morphology, prosody, syntax, and rhythm. The book is stocked with
plentiful examples, exercises, and easy access to basic linguistic
concepts such as 'phoneme', 'allophone', 'assimilation', and the like.

Chapter 1 offers an short history of the English language followed by a
discussion of some basic concepts for talking about the sound structure of
language as linguists do as well as the conventions used in the book. The
basics of a phonological analysis are described.

Chapter 2 discusses some basic articulatory and physical facts and methods
of analysis usually considered part of phonetics (rather than phonology).
Topics include human hearing, vibration, frequency, amplitude, resonance
chambers, anatomy for language science, phonation, and voicing. Various
major distinctions of speech sounds are discussed with respect to phonetic
observations: sonority, syllables, continuance, consonantal versus
vocalic, voicing.

Chapter 3 is about English consonants. Manners and places of articulation
are described as instantiations of distinctive features that differentiate
various consonant classes such as stop, fricative, nasal, liquid, labial,
apical, laminal, and dorsal. A concise section is devoted to each of the
classes mentioned. Additionally, this chapter contains a plethora of
examples, exercises, and discussion questions to be maintained throughout
the rest of the book.

Chapter 4 is concerned primarily with vowels. It is noted that vowels,
including English vowels, are generally more difficult to describe than
consonants because (1) dialects vary, (2) incidences of occurrence are
different, (3) phonetic realizations vary (such as in stressed versus in
unstressed positions), and (4) descriptive differences are employed by
different linguists. Distinctive vowel features are given as (1) quality,
(2) length, (3) complexity (mono- and diphthongal), and (4) tenseness.
Kreidler describes environmentally conditioned occurrences of English
vowels into categories of "checked" and "free". Interspersed in the text
are references to vocalic variation as a result of rhoticization, place
assimilation with adjacent consonants, conditioned length variations,
nasalization, and on- and off-gliding. 24 different vowels are given
concise phonetic and dialectal descriptions along with a host of helpful
example words.

Chapter 5 is about syllables and stress. Syllable constituents (peak,
onset, rhyme, coda) are described as well as possible and canonical
English syllable structure. Metrical stress, tone, accent, prominence,
and morphophonology are introduced as they are associated with syllables
and syllable structure. Kreidler strongly claims that "the fact is that,
in speech, a single consonant between a strong vowel-any strong vowel-and
a weak vowel is AMBISYLLABIC", (p 77, emphasis in the original) and offers
subsequent 'rules for dividing English words into syllables' that is
relied on later in the book.

Chapter 6 is about phonotactics. This chapter is concerned with what
consonants can occur together initially and finally between vowels and
what sequences of vowels and consonants are possible. The description is
given in terms of phonotactic constraints on environmental/positional
permissibility in English. Many examples are given.

Chapter 7 is concerned with segmental variation typically falling under
the notion of allophonic variation. Assimilation, aspiration, and length
are described as well as dialects that are likely to exhibit particular
processes resulting in allophony.

Chapter 8 points out surface consequences of phonological and
morphological processes as well as some deeper linguistic concepts such as
'underlying form', 'rule ordering' (opacity), and morphological influence
in sound structures and processes of English.

Chapter 9 is concerned with sound and production facts that are generally
larger than the segment or syllable, in particular the
larger-than-syllable parsing of 'chunks' which Kreidler prefers to call
'tonal', and the phrasal position of accent and focus which Kreidler
prefers to call 'accent'. Tone units are defined as phrasal elements that
can bear some sort of prominence via syllable timing or stress timing
controlled by the speaker. Paradigmatic and syntagmatic accents are
compared and contrasted as well as special accent methods such as
deaccenting, lexical and anaphoric reference accent, and accent on
operators (or non-content units).

Chapter 10 deals with larger-than-syllable units generally captured under
intonation and melody. Intonation is given an articulatory basis (falling
frequency of vocal cord vibration; intonation as variation at the accented
syllable) and perceptual-functional basis as to how the speaker's
intentions are passed along to the hearer. Tones are identified and
described as short rise, short fall, rise-fall, and fall-rise.
Combinations of tones are also discussed. The author clearly (and
certainly correctly) states that there is not a consensus among language
scholars about absolute identification, classification, or understanding
of issues raised in Chapters 9 and 10, and, at the very least, more work
is needed in these areas.

Chapter 11 discusses the predictability of English word stress. Kreidler
points out that stress in English, contrary to some languages of the
world, is not entirely predictable. However, the author demonstrates that
the use of syntactic, morphological, and phonological information can
provide some clues to the placement of word stresses. Stress application
processes are discussed in terms of morphological processes (eg.,
affixation), syntactic categories (eg., nouns and verbs), loanwords and
borrowings, and multiple applications (and potential contradictions) of
stress rules.

Chapter 12 is concerned with stress in compounds and phrases that behave
like compounds (due to their idiomaticity, regularity, or
compositionality). Stress in compounds composed of nouns, verbs,
syntactic units (such as phrase), adjectives, prefixes, and 'Greek-type'
compounds (eg., "phonograph", "telephone", etc.) are each individually
considered and compared.

Chapter 13 revisits some phonological processes such as segment reduction,
segment elision, assimilation, and palatalization. Specific reduced forms
are investigated such as auxiliaries (e.g., "can", "could", "does", etc.),
pronouns (e.g., "he", "you"), prepositions (eg., "to"), determiners (eg.,
"some"), conjunctions (e.g., "and"), and miscellaneous words such as
"there" and "not". A brief word about supposed homophones interestingly
suggests that most citations of homophones holds only for isolated
pronunciations but those same citations are not homophonic in context
because of reductions and stress assignments. For example, Kreidler
suggests "I have two" is nearly impossibly homophonous with "I have to".
Progressive, regressive, and mutual assimilation are discussed with
examples. Palatalization is presented as a kind of assimilation with
examples such as "won't you" = [wounCu] (not [wountju]).

Chapter 14 revisits some themes from Chapters 8 and 13 in more detail.
Phonologically conditioned alternations are compared with morphologically
conditioned alternations with consideration paid to historical influences,
specific morphology, and lexical (syntactic) processes. Specific
processes such as vowel reduction, palatalization, zero alternation,
spirantization, and velar softening are considered. Additionally,
underlying forms, rule sequencing and rule ordering are considered with
respect to the vowel shifts (eg., "wise" -> "wisdom") and augmenting
morphology (eg., "inscribe" -> "inscription", "expose" -> "expository").

The Appendix contains a list of word-endings and their effects on stress
including neutral suffixes, tonic endings and suffixes, heavy endings,
light endings, posttonic suffixes, and some special suffixes such as two
different "-age" suffixes in the words "bondage" versus "massage".

A Glossary, Bibliography, and Index conclude the book.

CRITICAL EVALUATION.

POSITIVE POINTS. Kreidler delivers with the promises in the title and the
introduction by offering an introductory course book about the sounds and
sound structure of English. There are copious examples and exercises
throughout the book that would nicely facilitate using this book for an
introductory class on phonology or English phonology, or for a not
overly-technical phonological reference. The book is delimited in obvious
ways (with numbers, bold, italic, etc. headings and sections) that make
the material quite accessible for beginners-clearly the audience for this
book-and the glossary and index appear to be user-friendly.

The book's content does not appear to have any glaring omissions or
patently wrong facts. The usual suspects of a phonological description
are present: phonetic (articulatory) grounding of phonology, distinctive
features, segments, consonants, vowels, syllables, stress, constraints and
variation on surface forms, phonotactics, prosody, tone, accent, rhythm,
and morphological influence on sound structure (morphophonology). The
text is not overly technical and examples are frequent enough to allow a
reader easy access to the concepts. Additionally, the 'Notes' section at
the end of each chapter offers a brief but dense and useful resource for
further research into the major academic works that deal with the topics
of that chapter.

NEGATIVE POINTS. Unfortunately, the nature of an introductory text is
such that many points are presented in a way that supposes there is no
debate about the issue at hand or offers very little suggestion that more
research is needed for a sensible response to the issues raised.

Here a few examples. First, Kreidler suggests that during acquisition, at
about the one-word-utterance stage "in two respects the child is quite
accurate [imitating adults]. The child recognizes syllables and it has
some appreciation of prosody" (p 23) by producing closures (i.e.,
consonants) and by producing oral openings (i.e., vowels). Without the
benefit of references or citations in the text, it is not clear exactly
what is meant by this. How could a child produce a one-word utterance
without it being a syllable? Could there be such a thing as a one-word
utterance without syllable structure? On the other hand, how could a
child project definite prosody on a single (presumably V, CV, or VC)
syllable? It seems that a child at the one-word stage has so little
control over his/her speech producing mechanism to make the projection of
prosody very difficult to determine. Supposing all these facts are
established in ways not described by the author, why would such an example
be included in the book when presumably others would be better or clearer?

Second, the text is overtly generative in the Chomsky and Halle "Sound
Pattern of English" (SPE) sense and does not, as far as I can determine,
attempt to consider any other approach in any way throughout the book.
Functionalist approaches, connectionism, emergent/embodied phonological
systems are not even mentioned in the text. Why not include some
alternative at least in the 'Notes' section at the end of the chapter?
Recent works such as Cho and Ladefoged (1999) claim in no uncertain terms
that "it has been known for many years that the SPE view is not correct"
(p 209), but Kreidler unquestioningly (and openly) espouses just that
view.

Third, as mentioned above Kreidler strongly states that "the fact is that"
an intervocalic consonant is ALWAYS ambisyllabic (p 77), while earlier in
the same chapter he much less controversially states that "the syllable is
a unit that is hard to define with scientific rigor" (p 68). Syllables
are decidedly NOT universally defined or even appreciated to exist by all
linguists (see Cote 2000 and references therein). It does not seem
responsible to put forth such a strong statement.

Next, the terminology used in the book is sometimes confusing,
inconsistent, or unconventional. For example, Chapter 10 'Intonation'
refers to "tone units" in the first pages of the chapter and suddenly,
inexplicably switches reference terms to "tunes or contours" and "tune
units"; neither the index nor glossary in the book contain the heading
"tune" (but "tone" and "tone unit" both appear). The familiar term 'tone'
is described in detail by standard references such as Kenstowicz (1996)
and Bussmann (1996), but the unfamiliar 'tune' appears in the references
of neither of these works. It is unclear what, if any, difference is
implied or intended. Is this a typographical error? Other apparently
unmotivated unfamiliar terms include "checked" to indicate vowels that may
not occupy an open syllable. Given that Kreidler uses terms such as "open
syllable" freely, why not discard a term such as 'checked' since it is not
commonly used in current phonological or phonetic analyses? Or is he
making apparent reference to Jakobson, Fant, and Halle (1951) (see
Bussmann 1996)? If so, why consult an early phonetic work whose
terminology has not been widely adopted?

On a somewhat more superficial level, the presentation of some terms and
concepts in the book is inconsistent and confusing. Important terms
appear variously in bold, capitals, italics, single quotes, double quotes,
etc. without consistency. For example, the term 'incidence' appears in
bold and italics (p 47) while example words (e.g., "father" v. "lather")
also appear in italics-or in bold or plain text-on the same page.
Additionally, the term 'incidence' appears in neither the glossary nor the
index, so sorting out the problem becomes difficult. This is particularly
troublesome because this text is clearly intended as an introductory
textbook and the terminology is likely to confuse rather than clarify.

REFERENCES

Bussmann, Hadumod (1996). Dictionary of Language and Linguistics.
London: Routledge.

Cho, Taehong and Peter Ladefoged (1999). "Variation and universals in
VOT: evidence from 18 languages". Journal of Phonetics 27: 207-229.

Cote, M.-H. 2000. Consonant cluster phonotactics: a perceptual approach.
Ph.D. dissertation, MIT.

Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, Morris Halle (1951). "Preliminaries to
speech analysis". Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kenstowicz, Michael (1996). Phonology in Generative Grammar. Cambridge,
MA: Blackwell.
 
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Mark VanDam is interested in sound structure, laboratory/experimental
phonetics, phonology, the phonetics-phonology interface, language theory,
cognitive linguistics, and disc golf. He is currently at Indiana
University.

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