Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

New from Wiley!


We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Review of  Romance Phonetics and Phonology

Reviewer: Joshua M Griffiths
Book Title: Romance Phonetics and Phonology
Book Author: Mark Gibson Juana Gil
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Language Acquisition
Language Family(ies): Romance
Issue Number: 30.3300

Discuss this Review
Help on Posting

This edited volume presents current research in Romance phonetics and phonology, focusing primarily on methodological advancements in the speech sciences and how these advancements have improved our understanding of one of the most well-studied and well-documented language families. This collection is divided into five parts, not including the introductory Chapter. Part I (Chapters 2-5) focuses on acoustic analyses of a wide variety of segments in certain Romance languages including fricatives in Portuguese, Spanish rhotics, and French and Spanish vowels. The next section of the book (Chapters 6-9) also highlights phonetic and laboratory methodologies. Part II is dedicated to articulatory analyses of Romance. Devoted to studies in perception, Part III (Chapters 10-13) begins to blur the lines between phonetics and phonology by focusing on perception. The section on perception serves as an effective transition into Part IV (Chapters 14-16) which looks at outstanding issues in Romance phonology. Finally, Part V (Chapters 17-20) looks at both phonetic and phonological acquisition of the Romance languages, primarily by speakers of other Romance languages (with the exception of Chapter 18 which considers English learners of Spanish and Portuguese.) Part V serves as an effective concluding section of the book combining many of the principles of speech science presented in Parts I-III with some of the theoretical issues addressed in Part IV in an applied, unified phenomenon: language acquisition.

Chapter 1: Romance sounds: New insights for old issues – Mark Gibson and Juana Gil

The introductory chapter of this volume serves as means for the editors to not only present the collection, but also situate the relevance of this volume outside of Romance phonetics and phonology, but in linguistics as a whole. Gibson and Gil briefly summarize the findings of the other chapters of this volume and explain the new methodological insights employed by the other offers to address outstanding problems in Romance phonetics and phonology. While Gibson and Gil present in their introduction a discussion on the “shifting and blurring… of the boundaries between [phonetics and phonology]” (p. 3) , it is clear that this book will be largely focused on current advancements in applications of the speech sciences to Romance phonetics and phonology with non-laboratory approaches to phonology at times coming across as an after-thought. Even in their presentation of the chapters which focus on phonology, Gibson and Gil discuss phonology as a phonetically-grounded system, and in presenting Part IV of the book which focuses on “Phonological Issues,” they present the chapters almost in isolation from the rest of the volume. Despite this, the introductory chapter serves as an effective presentation of the volume and does situate this book as a relevant collection in linguistics as a whole, not just in studies pertaining to the sounds of Romance.

Chapter 2: Rhotic variation in Spanish codas: Acoustic analysis and effects of context in spontaneous speech – Beatriz Blecua and Jordi Cicres

The first chapter of Part I presents a welcome acoustic analysis of a contested instance of a phonologically variable process in Spanish: the realization and neutralization of rhotics in coda position. Blecua and Cicres investigate spontaneous speech obtained from interviews with six speakers of Central Peninsular Spanish. The authors should be commended for the clear presentation of such robust results. The chapter is rich in spectrograms, graphs, and tables, facilitating the ease of following the analysis of such a complex phenomenon. Their results confirm what has been found in controlled laboratory studies, further suggesting that the realization of these rhotics is quite gradient, ranging from elision of the rhotic segment to complex trills, as well as distributional and apparent compensatory lengthening effects. This analysis not only fills a gap in our understanding of Spanish phonology, but also further supplements research in phonological variation, which has resorted to more quantitative approaches to phonology.

Chapter 3: The phonetics of Italian anaphonesis: Between production and perception – Silvia Calamai

Calamai approaches the diachronic process of anaphonesis through the use of production and perception experiments with speakers of Italian. Citing (Castellani 1952), Calamai specifies one particular type of anaphonesis, the process which resulted in unstressed Latin /i/ and /u/ variably being maintained as [i] and [u] in Italian as opposed to the expected [e] and [o] when preceding velar consonants (i.e. vĭnco ‘I win’ > vinco ; punctum ‘point’ > punto). The results of Calamai’s experiments taken in their totality suggest that anaphonesis is a much more phonetically grounded process related to the articulation of the nasal consonant as opposed to a phonological result of nasality. Calamai’s use of experimental methods to better understand a diachronic phonological process is a case study of how current trends in speech sciences can be used to inform historical linguistics.

Chapter 4: A crosslinguistic study of voiceless fricative sibilants in Galician and European Portuguese – Xosé Luís Regueira Fernández and María José Ginzo

Regueira Fernández and Ginzo’s chapter is the first chapter in the volume to feature a lesser-studied Romance language (Galician) in addition to the more well-studied Portuguese. This chapter seeks to fill the gap in the literature of acoustic studies of (Romance) fricatives. Their analysis of [s] and [ʃ] in these two closely related languages has several important implications, particularly for acoustic phonetics. They find a great deal of both inter- and intra-speaker variability in the articulation of these sounds, predominantly in the case of [s], and particularly in the case of Galician. Furthermore, they find greater differences in Galician than in Portuguese, which they attribute to a lesser leveling of standard Galician. They ultimately conclude that the observed differences in their analyses indicate a distancing between Galician and Portuguese.

Chapter 5: Acoustic realization of vowels as a function of syllabic position: A crosslinguistic study with data from French and Spanish – Cédric Gendrot, Martine Adda-Decker, and Fabián Santiago

The study conducted by Gendrot, Adda-Decker, and Santiago complements existing cross-linguistic laboratory phonology work on French and Spanish (see e.g. Colantoni and Steele 2005; Dupoux et al. 2001; Solé 2018). Gendrot et al. focus on an under-researched aspect of the phonetics-phonology interface, that is the interaction between the acoustics of vowels and syllable position, and their methodology is corpus-driven as opposed to experimental which has made up most of the work on these differences. Gendrot et al.’s findings further augment the current understanding of the differences between French and Spanish phonology. While both languages saw stronger vowels with longer durations, they found key differences in how the syllable position in the word affects these vowels between the two languages. They possibly attribute these differences to the sentential stress in French as opposed to the lexical stress in Spanish or to the differences in the size of the vowel inventories of the two languages.

Chapter 6: An articulatory account of rhotic variation in Tuscan Italian: Synchronized UTI and EPG data – Chiara Celata, Alessandro Vietti, and Lorenzo Spreafico

The first chapter on the volume to focus entirely (or at least primarily) on articulatory analyses focuses on the variability of rhotics in Tuscan. In order to better understand the degree to which rhotics in Tuscan vary in their pronunciation Celata et al. make use of articulatory (electropalatographic and ultrasound tongue imaging) data as well as acoustic data. The results of both types of articulatory data taken in conjunction with the results from their acoustic analysis indicate a great degree of variability in the realization of rhotics. This variability is across and within-speakers and is also subject to phonological context including the class of the preceding or following vowels and syllable position.

Chapter 7: Vowels and diphthongs: The articulatory and acoustic structure of Romanian nuclei – Ioana Chitoran and Stefania Marin

Chitoran and Marin employ acoustic and articulatory data to juxtapose Romanian diphthongs with comparable instances of hiatus both word-internally and across word boundaries. Since they are studying vowels as opposed to consonants, Chitoran and Marin must make use of articulatory data that differs from those used in the preceding chapter, in this case electromagnetic articulography (EMA.) Chitoran and Marin support the previous phonological research which asserts that there are indeed three different types of syllabic nucleus organization in Romanian: isolated monophthongs, diphthongs, and vowels in hiatus.

Chapter 8: Temporal organization of three-consonant onsets in Romanian – Stefania Marin

Romanian allows four three-consonant syllable onsets (/spl/, /skl/, /skr/, /skl/.) Making use of EMA data, Marin’s chapter investigates the timing and c-center organization (cf. Browman and Goldstein 1988) of three-consonant onset clusters in comparison to CC onsets and singleton liquid onsets. She finds that there is no difference in timing between CC and CCC onsets and the timing to the nucleus; however, she does find differences between the internal timing within the cluster and effects of the liquid in the cluster. She concludes by suggesting that the timing of complex onsets is conditioned by their underlying forms as well as the coarticulatory properties of the consonants in the clusters.

Chapter 9: Articulatory setting, articulatory symmetry, and production mechanisms for Catalan consonant sequences – Daniel Recasens and Meritxell Mira

The final chapter in the production section of this collection addresses the case of articulatory symmetry of sibilants (/s, ʃ, ts, t ʃ/) and various clusters of these four phonemes in three different varieties of Catalan. Recasens and Mira present articulatory symmetry as an effect by which two phones (consonant or vowels) share similarities in their articulatory settings despite differing in manner of articulation or frontness for example. Making use of acoustic data (specifically COG) and EPG data, Recasens’ and Mira’s findings corroborate the existing literature on articulatory symmetry and show evidence for the symmetry of sibilants in the three varieties of Catalan. They also find evidence supporting the existence of a regressive assimilation process in which /sʃ/ and /tsʃ/ are realized as [ʃ(:)] and [tʃ] respectively in Eastern and Western Catalan and nearly identical articulations of /ʃs/ and /s/ as well as /tʃs/ and /ts/ in Valencian Catalan due to a well-documented anterior realization of [ʃ] in this particular variety.

Chapter 10: Perceptual cues for individual voice quality – Marianela Fernández Trinidad and José Manuel Rojo Abuin

The first chapter to address perception in this volume looks at a relatively understudied phenomenon in speech sciences: voice quality, in particular the perceptual cues employed by a listener in identifying Italian speakers’ intentional disguising of the modal voice in falsetto. An AX discrimination task showed that listeners were able to identify speakers’ falsettos above chance level. They conclude from their experimental design that voice quality is determined from more than just changes in glottal features, which they open up as a direction for further research.

Chapter 11: Perception of lexical stress in Spanish L2 by French speakers – Joaquim Llisterri and Sandra Schwab

This chapter is the second of the volume to discuss cross-linguistic differences between Spanish and French focusing on the well-documented phenomenon of stress ‘deafness’ (Dupoux, Peperkamp, and Sebastián-Galles 2001; Dupoux, Sebastián-Galles, Navarrete, and Peperkamp 2008), through which French learners of Spanish struggle in identifying and producing lexical stress in Spanish. Through the results of three perception and discrimination tasks, Llisterri and Schwab suggest that French learners of Spanish are able to phonologically encode lexical stress. These results are contrary to the longstanding position on stress deafness, leading Llisterri and Schwab to suggest that stress deafness is acoustic in nature, not phonological.

Chapter 12: Brazilian Portuguese rhotics in poem reciting: Perceptual, acoustic, and meaning-related issues – Sandra Madureira

While Chapter 2 of this volume focused on the acoustic characteristics of Spanish rhotic and Chapter 6 used Tuscan rhotics as a case study for adapting articulatory methodologies, Chapter 12 also addresses rhotics, this time through the lens of perception, and in a much more complicated case of rhotic variability. The variability of rhotics in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) is notoriously complex. It is not only conditioned allophonically but can be variable in certain phonological environments with articulations ranging from taps, trills, approximants, fricatives and even a zero realization (cf. Mateus and d’Andrade 2000; Silva and Albano 1999). Madureira analyzes how the realization of BP rhotics interfaces with emotion and sound symbolism through a poetry reading. Her unorthodox methodology uses acoustic data in an emotionally controlled setting as a means of informing perception. Her results indicate that as the tone of the poem changes so does the realization of the rhotic consonants with more trills being realized in passages relating to intensity and anger.

Chapter 13: Perceived phrasing in French: A survey of some sentence structures – Caroline L. Smith

Stress and intonation in French serve a purely demarcative function, dividing the language into its prosodic phrases (Delattre 1938). Much of the work on the prosody-syntax interface in French has been theoretical in nature; therefore, Smith’s chapter is welcome as it fills a gap in the literature by investigating how speakers actually perceive and differentiate these prosodic demarcations in terms of three different sentence structures. Smith finds that listeners perceive a prosodic boundary separating dislocated phrases from the matrix sentence as well as sentences with long NPs. Listeners perceive dislocations as prominent but not sentences with long NPs. Finally, she found that speakers do not differentiate broad- from narrow- focus sentences, which she attributes to the nature of the task being experimental as opposed to in actual discourse, in which speakers would be encouraged to acoustically mark focus.

Chapter 14: Modeling assimilation: The case of sibilant voicing in Spanish – Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza

The first chapter to focus exclusively on phonological issues looks at voicing assimilation in Spanish. Campos-Astorkiza frames her analysis of pre-consonantal /s/ in Articulatory Phonology (Browman and Goldstein 1992). Through acoustic analyses, she finds that stress, manner of the following consonant and prosodic boundaries all have an effect on the voicing of /s/, ultimately supporting a more gradient model of voicing assimilation at the phonological level.

Chapter 15: Adjusting to the syllable margins: Glides in Catalan and Spanish – Jesús Jiménez, Maria-Rosa Lloret, and Clàudia Pons-Moll

This is the first chapter in the volume that is primarily theoretical in nature. Jiménez et al. present the wide range of repair strategies that can affect the realization of glides in several varieties of Catalan and Spanish. They frame their presentation in Optimality Theory. Jiménez et al. are explicit in stating that the goal of the chapter is “not [to] offer a description of all the phenomena affecting glides in Catalan and Spanish, but just [to] make use of specific cases that exemplify the range of repair strategies in which the two glides /j/ and /w/ are involved” (pp. 276-277), but the chapter at times feels incomplete,offering no synthesis of their constraint hierarchies, little justification for the selected constraints, and no reason that the hierarchies must be adjusted between the surveyed varieties of Catalan. To fully understand their analysis, the reader must devote a great deal of time engaging with the tableaux,since little explanation for their OT analyses is offered.

Chapter 16: Galician mid-vowel reduction: A Stratal Optimality Theory account – Fernando Martínez-Gil

The second and final chapter developed in a constraint-based grammar analyzes reduction of unstressed mid-vowels in Galician. Martínez-Gil offers a very thorough analysis of this phenomenon through Stratal-OT. Whereas the preceding chapter seemed incomplete in its analysis of glides, Martínez-Gil is to be commended for his thorough treatment of this phenomenon, which may seem simple at face-value. Martínez-Gil not only presents his constraint-based analysis in Stratal-OT, but he supplements his data and justifies his constraint selection with morphological data and diachronic data. His chapter not only provides a thorough treatment of the vowel reduction but also presents a convincing argument for the use of Stratal-OT as opposed to other constraint-based grammars like Parallel OT and grammars incorporating Output-to-Output Correspondence.

Chapter 17: Language proximity and speech perception in young bilinguals: Revisiting the trajectory of infants from Spanish-Catalan contexts – Laura Bosch

The final section of this volume deals with issues related to acquisition: including L1 acquisition, L2 acquisition, and simultaneous bilingual acquisition. In a careful and thorough review of the recent body of literature that has emerged on simultaneous bilingual acquisition in infants, Bosch finds that those who are acquiring similar languages such as Catalan and Spanish differ from those acquiring a pair of different languages like English and French or Spanish and English. The synthesis of this research leads Bosch to conclude that language proximity does affect how bilinguals acquire their languages in terms of phonetic categorization and word segmentation.

Chapter 18: Production and perception in the acquisition of Spanish and Portuguese – Jaydene Elvin, Polina Vasiliev, and Paola Escudero

Elvin et al. highlight an interesting phenomenon in second language research: while there may be a great deal of research on the acquisition of one group of speakers acquiring another language, the inverse case may not be well-documented at all. They frame this discrepancy in reviewing the little bit of literature that exists on English speakers acquiring Spanish and/or Portuguese after citing the large body of work on Spanish and Portuguese speakers acquiring English. Elvin et al. present some of the most prevalent models in L2A and frame some of the existing literature on L1 English speakers acquiring Spanish and Portuguese. They conclude with a synthesis of this work and directions for further research.

Chapter 19: Production of French close rounded vowels by Spanish learners: A corpus-based study – Isabelle Racine and Sylvain Detey

Corpus-based approaches to phonology have become more mainstream in recent years (cf. Durand, Gut, and Kristoffersen 2014 for an overview), but this chapter presents a database as well as a corpus-based analysis of L2 phonological acquisition. The Interphonologie du français contemporain (IPFC) (Detey and Kawaguchi 2008) draws inspiration from the large scale Phonologie du français contemporain corpus (Durand, Laks, and Lyche 2002) to establish a large database of L2 French gathered through a Labovian socio-phonological methodology. After presenting the corpus, Racine and Detey present the case study of Spanish speakers acquiring the French /y/-/u/ contrast as well as three different methodologies for studying the corpus data. They conclude with both methodological and pedagogical implications from the IPFC corpus.

Chapter 20: Phonetic behavior in proficient bilinguals: Insights from the Catalan-Spanish contact situation – Miquel Simonet

Simonet concludes this volume with a review of the literature on Catalan-Spanish bilinguals. While this population is well-researched, Simonet’s chapter concludes that there is still a great deal of work to be done. He highlights that the unique sociolinguistic situation in which both languages share similar degrees of prestige and use provides an ideal microcosm through which balanced bilingualism can be studied in large numbers. While Simonet shows that much of the research focuses on age of acquisition (AoA) of the second language, he concludes by providing avenues of further research pertaining to several different questions relating to this population that have yet to be pursued.


This volume provides an overview of many different issues in Romance Phonetics and Phonology, some of which have received more attention than others. Some of the articles presented in this volume would be welcome additions to graduate courses in phonetics and laboratory phonology, particularly those that focus on issues in contemporary Romance.

The title of Gibson and Gil’s introductory chapter (Romance Sounds – New Insights for Old Issues) seems to be a more fitting title for the volume than “Romance Phonetics and Phonology.” The volume has such a large focus on speech science that the two chapters focused on theoretical phonology (Chapters 15 and 16) feel somewhat out of place. The first three sections of the book (Chapters 2—13) do focus on new insights that can be offered by advancements in speech science methodologies. This focus on speech science can’t help but leave the reader feeling that the volume is somewhat limited in scope. While there is a large focus on variation, a great deal of emerging research on several Romance languages including Spanish (Erker 2010), Catalan (Simonet 2010), and French (Dalola 2015) has focused on sociophonetics, a sub-discipline which is missing in this volume.

There also appears to be little cohesion between Parts I-IV and Part V of this volume. While Part V feels typical of what is often included in an edited volume offering reviews, critiques, and syntheses of existing literature, Parts I-IV feel more like a special edition of a typical academic journal. Many of the chapters in this volume could effectively stand alone as journal articles, but as an edited volume the disjunction between Parts I-IV and Part V, as well as the large focus on speech science methodologies, make the reader wonder what place the volume holds as a volume of phonetics and phonology proper instead of as a volume on speech science methodologies applied to Romance linguistics, as well as who the target audience for the volume actually is.

The volume does offer a welcome and timely survey of phonetic variation and how it ties in with phonology. Variation in both phonetics, phonology, and the phonetics-phonology interface is currently a fruitful area of research (ie. Coetzee and Pater 2013 and Flemming 2013). The tools and methodologies adapted from the speech sciences offer much potential to explore some of the outstanding issues and questions in phonetic/phonological variation. In sum, while this edited volume suffers from some issues of cohesion as an edited volume, the presented chapters all offer some degree of new and welcome insight into Romance phonetics and phonology and innovative ways to integrate speech science methodologies into the study of complex linguistic questions.


Browman, Catherine P., and Louis Goldstein. 1992. Articulatory phonology: An overview. Phonetica 49.155-180.

Castellani, Arrigo. 1952. Nuovi testi fiorentini del Dugento. Florence: Sansoni.

Coetzee, Andries and Joe Pater. 2013. The place of variation in phonological theory. The handbook of phonological theory, ed. by John Goldsmith, Jason Riggle, and Alan Yu.

Colantoni, Laura and Jeffrey Steele. 2005. Phonetically-driven epenthesis asymmetries in French and Spanish obstruent-liquid clusters. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science Series.

Dalola, Amanda. 2015. The role of vowel type, preceding consonant and lexical frequency on final vowel devoicing in Continental French. ICPhS.

Delattre, Pierre. 1938. L’accent final en français: Accent d’intensité, accent de hauteur, accent
de durée. French Review 12: 141–145.

Detey, Sylvain and Yuji Kawaguchi. 2008. Interphonologie du français contemporain (IPFC): an récolte automatisée des données et apprenants japonais. Journées PFC: Phonologie du français contemporain: variation, interfaces, cognition. Paris.

Dupoux, Emmanuel, Sharon Peperkamp, and Núria Sebastián-Gallés. 2001. A robust method to study stress “deafness”. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 110: 1606-1618.

Dupoux, Emmanuel, Núria, Sebastián-Gallés, Eduardo Navarrete, and Sharon Peperkamp. 2008. Persistent stress ‘deafness’: The case of French learners of Spanish. Cognition 106: 682-706.

Durand, Jacques, Ulrike Gut, and Gjert Kristoffersen. 2014. The Oxford handbook of corpus phonology. New York: Oxford.

Durand, Jacques, Bernard Laks, and Chantal Lyche. 2002. La phonologie du français contemporain : Usages, variétés, et structure. Romanistische Korpuslinguistic – Korpora und gesprochene Sprache/Romance Corpus Linguistics – Corpora and Spoken Language ed. by Claus D. Pusch and Wolfgang Raible, 93—106, Tübingen: Gunter Narr.

Erker, Daniel G. 2010. A subsegmental approach to coda /s/ weakening in Dominican Spanish. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 203: 9-26.

Flemming, Edward S. 2013. Auditory representations in phonology. Routledge.

Mateus, Maria Helena and Ernesto d'Andrade 2000. The phonology of Portuguese. New York: Oxford.

Silva, Adelaide HP and Eleonora Albano. 1999. Brazilian Portuguese rhotics and the phonetics/phonology boundary. Proceedings of the XIVth ICPhS, San Francicso: 2211-2214.

Simonet, Miguel. 2010. Dark and clear laterals in Catalan and Spanish: Interaction of phonetic categories in early bilinguals. Journal of Phonetics, 38.663–678

Solé, Maria-Josep. 2018. Articulatory adjustments in initial voiced stops in Spanish, French and English. Journal of Phonetics 66: 217-241.
Joshua M. Griffiths is a PhD. candidate in French Linguistics in the Department of French and Italian at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests focus on corpus approaches to phonological variation in French, with a particular focus on the schwa vowel. His current research employs tools from machine learning and cognitive science to better understand the highly variable French schwa. He is interested in understanding how large-scale corpora annotated for phonology in conjunction with a better understanding of sociolinguistic factors can be used to further our understanding of phonologically variable structures

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9780198739401
Pages: 512
Prices: U.S. $ 110.00