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Review of  Crossing Phonetics-Phonology Lines

Reviewer: Amanda Dalola
Book Title: Crossing Phonetics-Phonology Lines
Book Author: Eugeniusz Cyran Jolanta Szpyra-Kozłowska
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Subject Language(s): English
Sami, Southern
Issue Number: 26.3746

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Review Editors: Malgorzata Cavar and Ashley Parker


This edited volume, “Crossing Phonetics-Phonology Lines,” is a collection of twenty papers—fourteen theoretical, six experimental—that features analyses of sound phenomena situated at the border of phonetics and phonology. Data come to us from a wide variety of languages, particularly Polish (7/20) and English (7/20), but other languages such as German, Italian, Southern Saami, Korean, Saraiki and Welsh are also represented. The volume is intended as an up-to-date contribution to the ongoing “separation versus integration” debate surrounding the conceptualization of the domains of phonetics and phonology (p. x).

Part I consists of three sections that examine the phonetics-phonology relationship from within various established frameworks: Section One treats Government Phonology (GP)(Kaye et al. 1985, 1990; Harris 1994; Harris & Lindsey 1995), Section Two treats Optimality Theory (OT)(Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004), and Section Three serves as a miscellaneous category that captures all other theoretical approaches represented in the volume (i.e. Cognitive Grammar (Nathan 2006, 2007; Taylor 2002), Onset Prominence (Schwartz 2013)).

Part I, Section One, “Government Phonology-Based Studies,” consists of six papers.

“Element Theory and the Magic of /s/” by Antonio Baroni investigates the duplicitous behavior of/s/ in Northern Italian dialects, where it is found patterning with both liquids and obstruents. Calling on a framework of CVCV (Lowenstamm 1996, 1999; Scheer 2004) and Element Theory (Kaye 1990), he accounts for this behavior by proposing a new representation of consonants and vowels, in which /s/ contains the element V on the manner tier and is V-headed.

“The Phonetics and Phonology of Obstruentization” by Eugeniusz Cyran uses a restrictive model of Element Theory to propose that obstruentization is too complex a process to be considered synchronic. Calling on data from w-obstruentization in Slavic languages and progressive voice assimilation in Polish, he argues for an arbitrary relation between phonological and phonetic categories, in which the components work separately but in tandem to restrict formal processes and select phonetic categories in bringing about multi-level sound change.

“Consonant Alternations, Weight Constraint and Stress in Southern Saami” by Guillaume Enguehard examines word stress in Southern Saami. In his analysis, Enguehard characterizes stress as the phonetic expression of an underlying phonological “templatic unit” (p. 58), by proposing that Southern Saami’s consonant alternations and weight constraint are two realizations of a [CV] unit induced by stress.

“Intervocalic Elision of Labials in Polish” by Krzysztof Jaskuɫa studies the tendency of labial consonants in Polish to delete in rapid speech. Examining the media-directed speech of various political and social figures, he suggests such elision can be accounted for by the perception of labials as weak consonants when appearing in intervocalic and word-final positions.

“The Internal Structure of English Velars” by Artur Kijak examines the phonological relationship between velars and labials by seeking to test Backley and Nasukawa’s (2009) and Backley’s (2011) proposal for the presence of the element |U| in the melodic tier of both categories. He defends this proposal with data from Old and Middle English, and goes on to refine it by demonstrating that the element not only exists in both velars and labials, but has a different function in each one.

“Licensing the ‘Magic’ of the Left Edge in English” by Grzegorz Michalski examines restrictions on the occurrence of ST- and STR- initial clusters in English monomorphemic words as a function of Magic Licensing (Kaye 1992). The author first demonstrates how Government Phonology overgenerates in these clusters by predicting unattested consonants in the skeletal position, then argues for the source and scalar nature of Magic Licensing.

Part I, Section Two, “Optimality Theory-Based Studies,” consists of five papers.

“A Perception-Based Account of Variation: Phonetics, Phonology and the Invariant” by Antonio Baroni and Marko Simonović discusses various types of reduction phenomena in casual speech, with the goal of understanding how phonetic variability allows for the construction of an underlying representation. Using OT in its substance-free version (Blaho 2008), the authors show that casual speech is an intricate tug-of-war between the need to reduce articulatory gestures and the need to preserve what is lexically distinctive about a word, a term they coin the “invariant” (p. 123).

“Frequency of Use and Expressive Palatalization: Polish Diminutives” by Bartɫomiej Czaplicki explores the role of sound symbolism in expressive morphology. In an examination of Polish diminutive patterns, the author reveals that suffixes whose addition leads to the emergence of palatalized consonants are overrepresented among novel diminutives, compared to the corresponding well-established diminutives of similar structure. He attributes this to the iconic role of palatalization as marking smallness, and uses it to argue more generally for a lexicon-based approach to phonology.

“Glottalization and Laryngeal Node Faithfulness in English” by Iwona Czyżak discusses t-glottaling in contemporary Received Pronunciation, where the phenomenon exhibits a high degree of intra- and interspeaker variability. Via an OptimalityTheoretic account, the author shows glottalization to be conditioned by perceptual factors, arguing it serves to maintain the laryngeal contrast in positions perceptually unfavorable to aspiration.

“Modeling Loanword Adaptation and Perceptual Illusion in OT: Perception and Production in OT” by Haike Jacobs proposes an OT candidate chain (OT-CC) account of perceptual illusion in loanword and, by extension, native, phonology. The author argues that illicit constructions in loanword perception are analyzed by the same OT grammar used in production, wherein the underlying representation is selected by the comparison of the perceived surface form with all potential surface forms of all potential underlying representations.

“The Emergence of the Unmarked in Loanword Phonology: A Harmonic Serialism Account” by Nasir Abbas Syed and Sultan Melfi Aldaihani investigates the adaptation of Arabic words into Saraiki (Indo-Aryan family). Using Harmonic Serialism (McCarthy 2010) in OT, the authors argue for the emergence of the unmarked based on three different adaptation behaviors: first, the adaptation of Arabic emphatic consonants as simplex, non-emphatic Saraiki consonants, second, the adaptation of monosyllabic CVCC Arabic words as bisyllabic CVC.CVC Saraiki words, and, finally, the adaptation of Arabic words with CC clusters in coda position as Saraiki CVC, where the epenthetic V is identical to the previous vowel in the Arabic word.

Part I, Section Three, “Other Approaches,” consists of three papers.

“The Phonetic and Phonological Lenition in Cognitive Phonology: The Case of Welsh Consonant Mutations” by Anita Buczek-Zawiɫa examines initial consonant mutations in Welsh that are of particular interest because they have the status of simple lenitions, yet produce output forms that are category prototypical members of different phonemic radial sets. Working within the framework of Cognitive Grammar, the author determines these mutations to be lenitions in terms of phonetics only.

“Spell-Out, Post-Phonological” by Tobias Scheer argues for a view of the phonetics-phonology interface in which the apparent one-to-one relationship between phonological categories and their phonetic realization has a diachronic origin. In this account, newly grammaticalized processes are said to be phonetically faithful, while older processes are allowed to stray from their original surface forms over time, rendering them opaque or “crazy” (p. 270).

“The Phonology of CV Transitions” by Geoffrey Schwartz and Grzegorz Aperliński proposes the inclusion of a parametric difference in the underlying representation of consonants that describes the relative weight of CV transitions across languages. Making use of the Onset Prominence framework (Schwartz 2013), the authors find evidence for this parameter in Polish and English in the place of articulation of stops.

Part 2, “Experimental Studies,” consists of six papers that explore the interconnectedness of phonetics and phonology via methodologies from Laboratory Phonology.

“Articulatory Grounding of Phonemic Distinctions in English by means of Electropalatography” by Grzegorz Krynicki demonstrates the ability to classify phones into phonemes on the basis of articulatory features obtained from electropalatographic and labial data. Velarity is found to be the most reliable articulatory correlate.

“Predicting Vowel Length Production in an L2: Phonetic versus Phonological Contrastive Analyses” by Katharina Nimz seeks to empirically test the claim that German vowel length is problematic for Turkish learners of German as a foreign language. Via a picture-naming task, the author finds evidence to suggest that Turkish learners do not have problems producing German vowel length, as long as it is overtly marked in the orthography. This finding is taken as evidence that phonetic contrastive analyses better predict experimental results than phonological ones.

“Adaptation of Polish CC Obstruent Clusters by Native Speakers of English” by Marek Radomski examines the different adaptation strategies employed by native English speakers when performing online adaptations of Polish CC clusters. Results reveal that both cluster position and segmental composition significantly impact the choice of adaptation strategy. Overall findings add support to the perceptual similarity view of loanword adaptation.

“Acoustic Properties of Nasal Geminates in Polish” by Arkadiusz Rojczyk and Andrzej Porzuczek investigates the production of true geminates (lexical) and fake geminates (derived) in Polish, in terms of articulation patterns, sequence patterns and surrounding vowels. The authors demonstrate via a reading task that single continuous articulation of geminates is overwhelmingly more common than double articulation. A significantly longer preceding vowel is found to occur before true geminates, however, no significant difference in length or intensity is found in the following vowel for either type.

“The Phonological Status of the Palatal Glide in Polish: A Study in Laboratory Phonology” by Radosɫaw Święciński argues for the treatment of the palatal glide occurring between palatalized consonants and the following vowel as a separate entity, in lieu of its usual treatment as a linking device. An analysis of duration and the synchronicity of articulation of CjV sequences suggest that the phonetic implementation of the glide does not display features of being coarticulatory or part of another sound.

“The Phonetics and Phonology of /ɫ/ Vocalization in Ayrshire Scottish English” by Sɫawomir Zdziebko and Mateusz Urban explores the recent trend of vocalizing postvocalic [ɫ] to [w] in Ayrshire Scottish English from an acoustic and phonological standpoint. Measurements of formant differences between lateral variants and neighboring vowels were found to be inconsistent with previous work (Backley 2011). Using Element Theory, the authors propose a phonological representation of / ɫ/ vocalization that describes the process as a lack of A or I spreading from the neighboring stressed vowel (dependent upon whether the lateral in question is licensed or not).


“Crossing Phonetics-Phonology Lines” is a well-edited, informative and accessible compilation. The “parts” and “sections” that serve to organize the volume by approach are effective and easy-to-navigate. The chapters within these subdivisions are detailed and consistent in form from one paper to the next, although lengths do vary considerably (from 14 to 38 pages; m=21.1). An added benefit to this collection is that all papers are coherent on a stand-alone basis, should you elect one from a section for case study but not another.

Although there is a brief four-page foreword that seeks to motivate the general structure of the volume, very little space is given to explaining the internal ordering of studies within each section or how each one’s claims orient it in practice or theory with respect to the other submissions. The end result is a collection of 20 studies divided into four approach-based groups (Theoretical-Government Phonology, Theoretical-Optimality Theory, Theoretical-Other, Experimental) that readers conceptualize primarily according to approach, instead of linguistic problem and proposed solution relative to some other similar linguistic problem and similar proposed solution. This could be easily addressed by lengthening the existing foreword to include a short introduction of each section that motivates its internal structure, previews the specific details within each study’s framework (i.e. in the OT section, one study made use of Harmonic Serialism, another OT-CC, another the substance-free version), and then situates each one with respect to their solutions (e.g. Study #1 proposes a new element on the manner tier for /s/ to account for Problem A, while Study #2 confirms the existence of a new element on the melodic tier for velars and labials to account for related Problem B).

A great strength of this edited volume lies in its ability to unite an array of approaches and theoretical frameworks under one cover. As such, it is an excellent tool for introducing and reinforcing theoretical concepts and experimental practices in both the classroom and linguistics lab setting.

Aimed at those with some understanding of phonological theory and articulatory and acoustic phonetics, “Crossing Phonetics-Phonology Lines” is an extremely valuable addition for linguists and researchers interested in investigating sound phenomena at the phonetics-phonology interface.


Backley, P. (2011). An introduction to element theory. Edinburgh University Press.

Backley, P., and Nasukawa, K. (2009). Representing labials and velars: a single
‘dark’ element. Phonological Studies, 12, 3-10.

Blaho, S. (2008). The syntax of phonology: A radically substance-free approach. Ph.D
diss., University of Tromsø.

Harris, John (1994). English Sound Structure. London: Blackwell.

Harris, John & G. Lindsey (1995). ‘The Elements of Phonological Representation’. In:
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Kaye, J. (1990). Government in phonology: The case of Moroccan Arabic. The Linguistic
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(1999). The beginning of the word. In J.R. Renison, and K. Kühnammer (eds.),
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McCarthy, J. J. (2010). An introduction to harmonic serialism. Language and Linguistics
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Nathan, G.S. (2006). Is the phoneme usage-based? --some issues. International Journal
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Prince, A., and Smolensky, P. (1993/2004). Optimality Theory: Constraints interaction in
generative grammar. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Originally distributed as Rutgers
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Scheer, T. (2004). A lateral theory of phonology. Vol 1: What is CVCV and why should it be? Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Schwartz, G. (2013). A representational parameter for onsetless syllables. Journal of
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Taylor, J.R. (2002). Cognitive Grammar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Amanda Dalola is an Assistant Professor of French and Linguistics at the University of South Carolina. Her research interests include phonetics, sociophonetics, phonology, lab phonology, history of French and technology in the L2 classroom.

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