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Review of  Phonology, 2nd edition

Reviewer: Snezhina Dimitrova
Book Title: Phonology, 2nd edition
Book Author: Philip Carr Jean-Pierre Y. Montreuil
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Issue Number: 25.1019

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The second edition of Philip Carr and Jean-Pierre Montreuil’s “Phonology” is aimed at the beginner student who has elementary knowledge of articulatory phonetics, but no previous experience with phonology. In the Preface, the authors describe their motivation for writing the textbook as follows: “This book is an attempt at a solution to a problem. The problem is this: how to introduce generative phonology, without trivializing the subject, within the confines of a ten-week course, to students who major in subjects other than linguistics, and thus may not take their study of the subject any further” (pp. x-xi). The book’s potential audience is thus clearly defined, and the aim of the book could hardly be any more ambitious.

The book adopts a historical perspective and can be divided into two parts. The first part is an introduction to the terminology and methodology of phonological analysis. It guides students from an introduction of the phonemic principle, through an outline of some of the problems which it poses, and then searches for solutions to these problems through the adoption of the classical generative phonology model outlined in Chomsky and Halle’s (1968) “The Sound Pattern of English” (SPE). The first five chapters of the second edition are similar to the respective chapters in the first edition, with some new exercises added to them, while Chapters 6 and 7 have been conflated and updated.

The introductory chapter, “Revision of Phonetics”, reviews basic phonetic terminology used for consonant and vowel description: consonantal places and manners of articulation, the vowel space and the cardinal vowels, as well as the symbols for their representation, including major diacritics. At the end of this introduction, the latest revision of the International Phonetic Alphabet is included for further reference -- a very helpful addition for the novice to phonology who is about to be faced with language data from a variety of languages throughout the book.

Chapter 1, “The Phonemic Principle”, introduces students to basic concepts such as phonemes and allophones, contrastive, complementary and parallel distributions, free variation, minimal pairs, phonemic rules and the notation for writing them, etc. The emphasis is on motivating the need for phonological analysis in order to express generalizations about speakers’ unconscious phonological knowledge. The authors thus address a major question which beginner students with some knowledge of phonetics usually ask, namely, “What do we need phonology for?” The chapter is rich in examples and exercises from a range of languages, thus involving students from the start in “doing phonology”: there are as many as 9 in-chapter exercises, and 5 more exercises
at the end.

Chapter 2, “Alternations”, explains how phonemic representations are mapped onto phonetic representations through a set of ordered phonological rules. It demonstrates how such an approach enables phonologists to express generalizations regarding morphophonological alternations. The sections on testing hypotheses about rules and representations and on choosing between analyses offer a step-by-step guide on how to make decisions about the merits of alternative analyses and how to give clear arguments in support of the particular choices that have been made. Again, the chapter abounds in examples and exercises from a variety of languages, ranging from English to Hungarian to Lumasaaba.

Chapter 3, “Features, Classes and Systems”, begins by addressing another question which newcomers to the field of phonology are likely to ask, namely, “Why use features rather than phonemes?” The distinctive feature theory which has been adopted is largely inspired by that outlined in Lass (1984). Students are shown how to write generative rules, and are presented with a detailed outline of the advantages of feature-based over phonemic rules, both for the expression of important generalizations as well as for making explicit the phonetic motivation behind the rules.

Chapter 4, “Problems with the Phonemic Principle”, presents several case studies of neutralization and of the application of the minimal pair criterion, and demonstrates how insistence on a distinction between morphophonemic and phonological rules and on two distinct levels of representation above the phonetic level causes analyses to lose generalizing power. The authors thus make their case for the adoption of the Generative Phonology (GP) approach to linguistic analysis in the rest of the book.

Having motivated the need for a theoretical approach that abandons the phoneme concept in favor of a view that better accounts for “unconscious” (p. 93) human knowledge of language, in Chapter 5 -- “The Organisation of the Grammar” -- the textbook proceeds to present an outline of the model of Generative Grammar adopted in Chomsky and Halle’s (1968) SPE, emphasizing the model’s modularity and the relationships between the phonological component, the lexicon and morphology. Several claims are made which relate to the interactions which take place between different kinds of linguistic knowledge, the ordering of phonological rules, and the relationship between phonetics and phonology and the abstractness of phonological representations in the lexicon.

Chapter 6, “Abstractness, Psychological Reality and the Phonetics/Phonology Relation”, looks at the consequences of some of the claims made in Chapter 5, namely, those concerning rule ordering and abstractness. The authors show how, within a GP model, the distance between phonetic and phonological representations may be such that a large number of rules may apply in the derivation, and thus, the phonetic representations of segments may differ considerably from underlying ones. A crucial issue which is addressed next is whether allowing for such a degree of abstractness is desirable and “psychologically real” (p. 117). The search for an answer prepares the student for the introduction of some of the major extensions and revisions of the theory in the second part of the book.

Chapter 7, “The Role of the Lexicon”, largely corresponds to Chapter 8 in the first edition. It introduces Lexical Phonology (LP), a major post-SPE development which seeks to address the issue of rule ordering through a revision of the organization of grammar and the introduction of a level-ordered model of affixation in morphology. Examples of the operation of the LP model are drawn from several varieties of English and from Standard Malay. The last section of the chapter introduces some ways, proposed within Underspecification Theory, in which the specification of feature values in underlying representations may be reduced.

Chapter 8, “Representations Reconsidered (i): Phonological Structure above the Level of the Segment”, considers, first of all, syllable structure and the way in which lexical rules enforce the phonotactic constraints in a language. Some syllable-based generalizations which are discussed concern nasalization, the distribution of mid vowels in French, resyllabification, extrasyllabicity and liaison and its consequences for abstractness. A solution to the SPE problem of formalizing rules which involve segment length is suggested through the introduction of the CV-tier (i.e. the skeletal tier in later work). Lexical stress assignment in some languages is also shown to be best described with reference to syllable structure. Furthermore, the student is introduced to another major post-SPE development -- Metrical Phonology -- and speech rhythm, and nuclear, compound, and phrasal stress assignment in English are discussed within its framework. Finally, there is a brief outline of the prosodic hierarchy and the syntax-phonology relationship, with detailed notes at the end of the chapter for those who may want to pursue some of these questions further.

Chapter 9, “Representations Reconsidered (ii): Autosegmental and Subsegmental Phonology”, is devoted to post-SPE theoretical developments which depart from the classical view of linear transmission of phonological properties from one segment to another. A discussion of Autosegmental Phonology and how autosegments are associated with elements on the segmental tier highlights the greater generalizing power of the autosegmental approach, e.g., in dealing with nasality and vowel harmony in a number of languages. In addition, the idea that feature bundles have internal structure is discussed within the framework of Feature Geometry, and is combined with the idea of underspecification.

Chapter 10, “Phonological Weight”, constitutes a new addition to the second edition of the book. The validity of the mora as a basic unit of weight in Moraic Theory (MT) and the place of the mora at the bottom of the prosodic hierarchy are discussed and amply illustrated. The weight of syllable codas is reconsidered under MT and the question about the correlation between weight and stress is addressed. Finally, an MT account of compensatory lengthening in several languages is put forward.

The last two chapters in the second edition of “Phonology” are also new. Their aim is to introduce the student to a constraint-based model of generative grammar which appeared around the time of publication of the first edition of the book, and has since become very influential. Chapter 11, “Optimality Theory”, begins by outlining the basic architecture of the Optimality Theory (OT) model: the set of constraints, the generating function and output candidates, and the evaluation function. The roles of markedness and faithfulness constraints are discussed and illustrated with the help of tableaus that progressively increase in complexity. Positional constraints are introduced later in the chapter, and the nature of the input in OT, the prosody- melody interface, as well as the concept of positional faithfulness are discussed.

Chapter 12, “Issues in Optimality”, focuses on some problems which the classical version of OT outlined in Chapter 11 has encountered. The first part of the chapter deals with opacity issues: opaque ordering, paradigm pressure, derived environment effects and chain shifts -- cases with which an output-driven theory struggles to deal. The second half of the chapter reviews some of the ways in which opacity problems have been addressed through “enhancements” to the classical version of OT, such as local conjunction, enriched outputs and the stratal OT approach, the extent of success which they have had in dealing with various opacity issues, and the challenges to some of the basic tenets of classical OT which they pose.


The overall structure and the content of the textbook under review are logical and straightforward, and are obviously based on its authors’ rich professional experience of teaching phonology to beginners. Given the target audience of the book, the authors’ decision to start off by ensuring that the students have brushed up on their basic phonetics, with the help of a revision chapter, is to be lauded. The latest version of the IPA at the beginning (p. 11) and the feature specification matrices for consonants at the end (pp. 312-313) are useful references for the beginner student.

However, the term “palato-alveolar” (p. 3), which no longer appears on the IPA chart, and the use of the non-IPA symbols č and ǰ for the representation of the post-alveolar affricates in the feature matrix (p. 312) and in many other instances (see, e.g., p. 74 and elsewhere for Polish, p. 76 for Hungarian, pp. 82-83 for Russian, etc.) are likely to be confusing for the newcomer to the discipline. The same is true of the use of š and ž for the post-alveolar fricatives, especially in Polish data throughout the book. This use comes in spite of the initial claim, on p. 4, that the post-alveolars will be represented by their IPA symbols. This use of symbols, together with some (presumably typographic) errors (see, e.g., p. 83 line 19 from top, p. 157 line 2 from bottom, p. 229 lines 9 and 10 from top) may turn into something of a stumbling block for less ambitious students.

Phonology is best learned through doing phonological analysis, so students are urged to work through a variety of exercises from the very beginning of the course (and to keep their answers in order to refer to them at a later stage). The distinctive features introduced in Chapter 3 are defined in a way which beginners with only a basic knowledge of phonetics are likely to find comprehensible and straightforward. Even though at times one may feel that there is too much illustrative material, the variety of languages from which the examples are drawn is certainly a major strength of the book. Even lecturers who teach the phonology of a particular language may be able to pick and mix data suited to the needs of the courses which they are teaching.

As an introduction to Generative (and major post-Generative) approaches to phonological analysis, the second edition of “Phonology”, by Philip Carr and Jean-Pierre Montreuil, certainly meets its objectives. The preface to the first edition says that the text falls into two parts, and this is also true of the second edition, which may best be used as a two-semester course, or as two separate courses – one introductory, and a second one for those who want to learn about more recent developments in phonological theory. The first part in particular is fairly gently paced, rich in illustrative materials from a diversity of languages, and intended to guide the student through the initial stages of not only learning about, but also doing phonology. The second part of the book is likely to be harder for the beginner. Hopefully, a beginner, who by this time has found phonological analysis exciting, will be willing to invest the extra time and effort needed to
work through the second half of this excellent textbook.


Carr, Philip. 1993. Phonology. London: Macmillan.

Chomsky, Noam & Morris Halle. 1968. The Sound Pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.

Lass, Roger. 1984. Phonology: An Introduction to Basic Concepts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Snezhina Dimitrova is an Associate Professor at the Department of English and American Studies, Sofia University 'St Kliment Ohridski' in Bulgaria, where she teaches English phonetics and phonology, English pronunciation, Varieties of English, etc.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9780230573147
Pages: 352
Prices: U.K. £ 25.99