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Review of  Phonetics for Speech Pathology

Reviewer: Leah R. Paltiel-Gedalyovich
Book Title: Phonetics for Speech Pathology
Book Author: Martin Ball Joan Rahilly Orla Lowry Nicola Bessell
Publisher: Equinox Publishing Ltd
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
Clinical Linguistics
Issue Number: 32.2399

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“Phonetics for speech pathology” is a revised text for the teaching of phonetics to students of speech pathology. The text consists of forty-two chapters, divided into three parts. Each part deals with one of the three major areas of phonetics: articulatory, acoustic and auditory phonetics in fourteen very short chapters (ranging from 4 to 13 pages).

The book begins with an introductory chapter which explains the structure of the book and introduces important concepts.

Part 1 is Articulatory Phonetics. Chapter 1, The Vocal Organs, gives a brief overview of the organs of the vocal tract and their functions in typical speech, as well as the potential for disordered speech resulting from physical anomalies of the vocal tract. Chapter 2, Initiation, describes the airflow mechanisms of typical speech production: pulmonic, glottalic and velaric. Atypical airstreams are also mentioned, including that used for esophageal speech. Chapter 3, Phonation, describes characteristics of typical and disordered vocal fold functions and the resultant voice qualities. Chapter 4, Manner of Articulation, introduces the terminology and definitions of the various manners of articulation in the context of the vertical and lateral dimensions for typical and atypical speech. Chapter 5, Place of Articulation, describes the horizontal dimension of articulation from anterior to posterior, including typical and atypical placements. Chapter 6, Orality and Nasality, addresses producing varying resonance characteristics in the oral and nasal cavities, at the phonemic, coarticulatory and vocal resonance levels for typical and disordered speech. The more specific discussion of manners of articulation begins in Chapter 7, Plosives. The articulation of oral, nasal and lateral stops is described in three stages. Chapter 8, Vowels, addresses the other extreme on the vertical dimension. This chapter includes an extended discussion of cardinal vowels. Atypical vowel productions are briefly mentioned. Chapter 9, Primary, Secondary and Double Articulations very briefly touches on further aspects of articulatory patterns at the segmental level, again with a very short mention of applications to disordered speech. Chapter 10, Phonetic Transcription, is included in this part on articulatory phonetics. This chapter argues for the clinical importance of accurate phonetic transcription and the use of the IPA charts. Chapter 11 is Parametric Phonetics, presenting methods of showing various sub-segmental characteristics of articulation and how these change across production of sound sequences. The usefulness of using this type of analysis for disordered speech is discussed. Chapters 12 and 13 present suprasegmentals, with Chapter 12, Prosody and Connected Speech and Chapter 13, Voice Quality. As well as aspects of pitch and intonation, Chapter 12 discusses coarticulatory characteristics of typical and atypical speech. The final chapter of Part 1 is Chapter 14, Speech Imaging. The techniques presented are considered to be experimental techniques with varying degrees of clinical applications.

Part 2 is Acoustic Phonetics. Chapter 15, Frequency and Pitch, provides an explanation of the basics of acoustic phonetics. Although it is pointed out that pitch is an auditory, and not an acoustic, concept, pitch is discussed here. Chapter 16, Intensity and Loudness, follows the pattern of the previous chapter, introducing these acoustic and auditory concepts. Chapter 17 explains Resonance. Throughout Chapters 14 through 17, disorders related to acoustic properties of sounds are very briefly mentioned. Chapter 18, Recording Speech, gives guidelines for recording speech at quality levels suitable for detailed phonetic transcription and possible acoustic analysis. Chapter 19, Acoustic Analysis: Spectrography, introduces basic concepts and methods in spectrography. Chapter 20, Acoustic Characteristics of Vowels, related the previous concepts to the case of vowels, and the acoustic characteristics of monophthongs and diphthongs of English. Chapter 21, Acoustic characteristics of Sonorant Consonants, moves on to describe acoustic characteristics of glides, liquids and nasals. For liquids and glides, the formant patterns are given, without reference to specific frequency values of the formants. Chapter 22, Acoustic Characteristics of Obstruents, describes the acoustic characteristics of English plosives, fricatives, affricates, trills and taps. The next four chapters each address one aspect of Acoustic Characteristics of Suprasegmentals. Chapter 23 addresses Stress with topics including fundamental frequency, duration and intensity. Chapter 24 addresses Pitch, Chapter 25 addresses acoustic characteristics of Connected Speech and Chapter 26 addresses Voice Quality. Imaging and analysis technologies for voice quality are introduced. These chapters, together with Chapter 27, Acoustic Characteristics of Child Speech Disorders, mention acoustic characteristics of these properties in disordered speech. Chapter 28, Acoustic Characteristics of Acquired Speech Disorders is totally devoted to deviant speech. Throughout Part 2, acoustic phonetics are related to articulatory phonetics.

Part 3 is Auditory Phonetics. The first two of these, Chapter 29, Hearing: the Ear, and Chapter 30, Hearing Perception, give an overview of the anatomy and function of the ear. Theories of speech comprehension follow in Chapter 31, Hearing: Comprehension which includes as well as theories, thoughts on the role of phonological knowledge in comprehension. This role is continued in Chapter 32, Perceptual Units of Speech which includes both segmental and suprasegmental units. In this chapter, again disordered aspects are discussed. The following Chapter 33, Hearing Impairment is completely devoted to different types of hearing loss as well as intervention strategies including English sign languages for comprehension and production, and cued speech to aid comprehension. Chapter 34 talks more specifically about the Phonetics of Hearing Impaired Speech, noting phenomena common to speech sound impairments of other aetiologies as will as those more specific to the hearing impaired population, while distinguishing between prelingual and postlingual impairment. Phonetic/phonological aspects of sign languages are not addressed. Chapter 35 moves on to Audiological Measurement (pure tone and speech), providing basic knowledge for the speech-language pathologist who is not also an audiologist. Auditory Processing Disorders, Chapter 36, returns us to the topic of hearing impairment addressed in Chapters 33 and 34, however, moving on to higher level disorders which affect more than the ability to detect and perceive speech sounds. A more direct relationship between hearing and other sensory systems and expressive phonetic abilities is seen in Chapter 37, Feedback in Speech. Chapter 38, Psychoacoustic Experiments, reports methods for investigating speech sound perception and some results of such investigations. In this chapter, basics of acoustic phonetics discussed in Part 2 are related to perception and consequently impaired perception. Further research issues are discussed in Chapter 39, Delayed Auditory Feedback. Chapter 40, Dichotic Listening, discusses the role of binaural versus monaural listening, as well as the dichotic listening task as an experimental method. Chapter 41, Time-Variated Speech, gives an example of another experimental technique. A first model of speech perception was presented in Chapter 37. In Chapter 42, Models of Speech Production and Perception, further models are presented. This chapter ends the volume.


As an introductory textbook, Phonetics for speech pathology , covers a broad range of basic topics in phonetics with an emphasis on clinical applications. Throughout the text clear and detailed illustrations support the verbal explanations. Furthermore, transcription symbols available for representing different phonetic phenomena are presented when these phenomena are discussed. Not only is the standard IPA chart given in the references, but also the supplementary extIPA and VoQS charts, which support transcription of non-typical segmental and suprasegmental productions and disordered voice quality. While this serves the purpose of introducing and explaining the use of phonetic transcription, it also encourages the reader to be constantly thinking about how to represent various typical and atypical phonetic phenomena, and how to use this representation in diagnosis and treatment.

The chapters themselves are very brief. This has the advantage that each topic is clearly defined. Cross-referencing throughout, to where more detailed or related topics are discussed within the text, allows for expansion while not deviating from the specific topic under discussion. In some cases, the brevity of the chapters results in great density of new information. For instance, in Chapter 4, Manner of Articulation, many different terms and definition are presented very briefly. This may be confusing for new students of phonetics, although many of these terms are expanded in following chapters. Similarly, various perceptual scales are introduced, very briefly in Chapter 30, Hearing Perception, and I wonder if the student new to phonetics will have difficulty with the density. In other chapters, for instance, Chapter 17, Resonance, the brevity of the chapter does not prevent a clear presentation of the new concepts. With a view to covering this breadth, five authors collaborated in preparing the text. Unfortunately, this appears to have resulted in variation in the clarity of the various chapters.

The organization of the text into three clear sections provides the reader with a useful framework for classifying the abundance of information provided. The inclusion of transcription in the first section on articulatory phonetics further emphasizes the use of phonetic transcription to accurately describe various articulatory phenomena. The discussion of acoustic changes at the phonemic level in connected speech requires consideration of language and arguable phonological issues (Chapter 25). I wonder, do these changes reflect phonetic changes or phonological changes, where the different meanings of, for instance stressed and unstressed words in phrases, are represented phonologically, such that the two targets are phonetically distinct. In discussing phonetics, there are cases where phonological issues must also be addressed. This point arises in several other chapters, for instance, by transcribing a different phoneme as opposed to the relevant allophone of the phoneme (p.113) it appears that there is a suggestion that there is a phonological/phonemic difference between the productions and that the target production is affected. This is further supported by the use of the phonemic marker (//) as opposed to the phonetic ([]) in the transcriptions. In fact, this is explicitly argued. I have a problem with the concept of ''phonemic'' assimilation.

In the case of the examples of coalescence (p.114) I accept that it may well be that these informal versions of the phrases are phonemic targets for speakers.

A further question regarding the phonetic/phonological distinction arises in the discussion of [tɹ̝] (p.184) which is considered an affricate and not a consonant cluster. Although the two may be identical articulatorily and acoustically, the classification has phonological implications and possibly auditory ones, as well.

A further distinction which is not clear to me is that between coarticulation which is defined as an acoustic term and assimilation, which is defined as an articulatory phenomena (p.196). To me it seems more appropriate to consider coarticulation, changes in articulatory gestures, as articulatory and assimilation of the resultant sounds as acoustic (cf. Ladefoged and Johnson, 2015, pp. 313-314).

Although the text is introductory, it attempts to immediately relate theoretical concepts of phonetics to clinical applications. Still, the level of description of speech disorders is in most cases very superficial – with minimal detail about why these problems occur or directions for treatment. An exception would be the discussion of the types and degrees of hearing impairment, which are discussed in greater detail, although the place of a discussion of sign languages in a discussion of phonetic aspects of the disorder is not clear. (This direction of thought would lead to inclusion of alternative and augmentative communication in the discussion of apraxia.) The reader is directed to further reading on speech sound disorders to for instance Bernthal, Bankson and Flipsen (2017).

I am also missing a concluding chapter which would tie together the many topics covered in the text and point readers in directions for further study (such as phonology or intervention methods).

Although there are examples from other languages, it is clear that this text is primarily aimed at those training to work with the English language.

There are technical problems which interrupt the fluent reading of the text. Type-editing is not consistent, and I found too many errors to enumerate here, for instance, ''later the volume'' instead of ''alter the volume'' (p.10) and an incorrect reference to Figure 29.1 when it should be Figure 30.1 (p.238).

I found the referencing inconsistent, with some of the references appearing in Further Reading and not in the text itself (e.g., p. 309). Some terms are introduced early in the text, for instance PRAAT (Boersma and Weenik, 2019) which first appears on p.141, while the authors and publication date only appear much later (on p. 204), while WASP (Huckvale, 2019) is not referenced at all. Students interested in pursuing these programs will have to work that much harder to find them. Furthermore, students are given an example of referencing which they will not be able to follow during their academic careers.

In summary, Phonetics for speech pathology, is a comprehensive text, covering a wide range of topics useful to speech-language-hearing clinicians, as a basis for further study in clinical phonetics and phonology. The brevity of the text, together with some editing issues needs to be considered when recommending this volume to students new to the field.


Bernthal, John E. , Nicholas W. Bankson, Peter Flipsen (2017) Articulation and Phonological Disorders: Speech Sound Disorders in Children, 8th Edition. Pearson

Boersma, P. and Weenink, D, (2018): Praat: doing phonetics by computer [Computer program].

Huckvale, M. (2019) Windows tool for speech analysis. [Computer application], Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, UCL.

Ladefoged, P. and Johnson, K. (2015) A course in phonetics, Seventh Edition. Cengage Learning.
Leah R. Paltiel-Gedalyovich is a practising communication clinician with over thirty years experience, primarily in child speech, language and communication development and disorders. She coordinates the speech-language-communication section of the Communication Disorders program in Achva Academic College (Israel). In this capacity she overseas both the theoretical program and the clinical practicum program. She teaches courses in phonetics and phonology, development, disorders, assessment and treatment of articulation and phonology.

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