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Review of  The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application

Reviewer: Stuart L. Stewart
Book Title: The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application
Book Author: Robert M. Hammond
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Issue Number: 13.177

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Hammond, Robert M.(2001). The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and
Application (with special reference to American English). Cascadilla
Press, x+423 pp., paperback ISBN 1-57473-018-5, $48.95.

Stuart Stewart, Southeastern Louisiana University.

Robert M. Hammond's "The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application"
is an introduction to and detailed description of the sound system of
Spanish. Deliberately written in English for undergraduate students who
are just beginning their study of linguistics, this volume could prove
even more useful to graduate students who have a working knowledge of
linguistics. In fact, information on additional sources is provided for
those who desire further information.

Replete with comparisons between Spanish and English, this volume
elucidates many of the pitfalls that native speakers (NSs) of English
will likely encounter during their journey towards more native-like
pronunciation of Spanish. The author's caveat that "knowledge of the
rules will not automatically improve your pronunciation" (p. v) is
followed by a variety of suggestions - liberal pronunciation practice,
interactions with NSs of Spanish for quality input, and continuous
comparison of one's own pronunciation with that of NSs. The book is
accompanied by additional material available on the web at Charts and tables are useful for
making transparencies, while audio files offer pronunciation practice.

Part I, which offers a brief introduction to the fields of phonetics
and phonology, comprises 7 chapters including an overview of the study
of sounds and sound systems, phonetic transcription; acoustic and
articulatory phonetics, the five families of sounds and the phoneme.
Chapter 1 opens with a discussion of transfer in the process of second
language acquisition, commenting on some of the general similarities
and differences between Spanish and English. Although the book is
geared towards improving pronunciation, which would tend to place the
focus on the differences, H reminds the reader that there are many
examples of positive transfer between the two languages that should not
be overlooked. Also included here is a description of H's theoretical
basis for analysis, which is loosely based on unilinear generative
phonology. Chapter 2 begins with a discussion of phonetic symbols.
While noting that Spanish is pronounced much like it is written (much
more so than English), the author explains that it is not a phonetic
language due to the lack of 1:1 correspondence between sound and
symbol. H makes reference (p. 11) to appendix A, which contains all
phonetic symbols used in the text. From this point forward, he begins
to use them freely in examples without much of an explanation of what
sounds they represent, a feature I found to be a bit confusing. Table
2.1 (p. 12) is the first in a series of tables that contain audio files
available on the web. Although this is a useful concept for readers who
have computer access, it will be a definite hindrance for those who
don't (yes, there are still those who don't, at least at my
university!). Moreover, for those who choose to do their reading away
from a computer, as many most certainly will, this creates the
additional dilemma of not being able to listen while reading, leaving
the explanation less than optimal. On occasion, readers may have
difficulty accessing the files (as I did on more than one occasion), so
I would suggest that this information be made available on CD or tape
(or both!) so as to appeal to a wider audience. The exercises are,
however, very good; I only wished for more of them! H's explanation of
the phrasal boundary as having the most important effect on spoken
Spanish (p. 14) led me to believe that there might be an abundance of
lengthy pieces of discourse included to highlight this phenomenon (cf.
Dalbor 1997; Teschner 1996), but that was not the case. In fact, only
one such example is offered in this chapter, and there are only a few
in the chapter dealing with resyllabification. Perhaps a future edition
will include more, which would not only lend support to his claim, but
also allow for a fuller explanation of what an integral part the
phrasal boundary plays in spoken Spanish. The next chapters are devoted
to acoustic and articulatory phonetics. Diagrams and charts are clear,
and H's explanations are concise. Recordings on the web offer a nice
demonstration of the difference between the English and Spanish vowel
systems. H's initial presentation of the Spanish syllable, which seems
too short and rather vague in Chapter 5, is expanded on and elucidated
in subsequent chapters. A reference to Harris (1983) includes the
notion of rhyme, a term that H fails to delineate anywhere in his own
description of the syllable. While Table 5.1 contains the various
Spanish syllable structures, the terms 'open' and 'closed' are not
offered until Chapter 7 (p. 73). Discussion of the velum's role in the
production of nasal sounds(p. 47) seems somewhat more complex than
necessary. The vowel-to-consonant continuum that H introduces in Ch. 5
is clearly delineated in Table 6.1 and expounded on throughout his
description of sounds. This presentation makes much sense and is the
first of its kind that I have seen. Table 7.1 (p. 66) presents the
allophones of the English phoneme /t/ while identifying them only as
'different pronunciations.' The term 'allophone' is relegated
parentheses in a sentence below the table, leaving me wondering why it
is not shown in bold type (like phonology, phoneme, phonetics and
phonological representation are!). The mystery clears on p. 70 where a
more thorough discussion is found.

Part II (Spanish Vocoids and Syllables) is made up of 4 chapters:
vowels, glides, syllables and diphthongs/syllabification/
resyllabification. H begins with instructions for native English
speakers in the production of Spanish vowels and gives a step-by-step
explanation of the differences in the production of vowel sounds in the
two languages. The vowel-to-consonant continuum is the springboard for
H's clear and concise discussion of glides. Included in this chapter
are their respective distributions and articulations, their
orthographic representations, comparisons with their American English
counterparts and anticipated pronunciation difficulties. The vowel-to-
consonant continuum resurfaces in Chapter 10 as H begins a "systematic
exploration of the structure of the Spanish syllable" (p. 127) that
includes theoretical, articulatory, perceptual and functional
approaches. The breadth of his discussion leaves the reader with little
doubt as to the importance H accords the syllable as a linguistic unit.
A discussion of diphthongs, triphthongs and glide-formation across word
boundaries is followed by rules for syllabification of isolated words
and breath groups, as well as those conditioned by word-level

Part III (Spanish Obstruents) treats stops and the affricate (2
chapters) and fricatives (3chapters). H revives the vowel-to-consonant
continuum as he leads the reader through each of the sounds (voiceless
- Ch. 12 and voiced - Ch. 13): description and articulation,
distribution, phonetic realizations, orthographic representations,
recommendations for correct pronunciation and comparisons with their
respective English counterparts. The following three chapters are
somewhat more detailed in that they not only cover the topics mentioned
above, but also include a discussion of dialect differences with
regards to each of the fricatives.

Part IV (Spanish Sonorant Consonants) covers the nasals and liquids in
3 chapters. A similar pattern is followed in the presentation of
nasals, albeit somewhat more detailed due to progressive and regressive
assimilation. Again, dialectal differences are attended to, as well as
certain orthographic peculiarities. Non-lateral liquids are treated in
a similar fashion in Ch.18. Lateral liquids are accorded a more lengthy
explanation in Ch. 19, including an ample discussion of lleismo and
yei-smo in Spanish dialects.

Part V (Other Topics in Spanish Pronunciation) is an interesting
assortment of information that includes stress, intonation, vowel
combinations, as well as 3 chapters on the diachronic and synchronic
linguistic situation in various parts of the Spanish-speaking world.
Dalbor's (1997)description of suprasegmentals as "so important in human
communication that the listener often heeds them much more than the
individual sound segments" (p. 31) made this reader wonder why H would
choose to leave his discussion of stress and intonation to the end of
the book. Perhaps even more baffling is why he chose to include it with
seemingly unrelated sociolinguistic information. Its odd make-up
notwithstanding, this section provides thorough discussions of: 1) the
suprasegmentals of word stress (Ch. 20) and intonation (Ch. 21) and 2)
Spanish from a historical perspective (Ch. 23), the present-day
linguistic situation on the Iberian Peninsula and in the Canary Islands
(Ch.24) and Spanish in the Americas (Ch. 25). Chapter 22, which treats
vowel combinations in different discourse registers, is an interesting
segue that links the two parts quite nicely, thereby clarifying the
hodgepodge mentioned above - now only the section's title remains

The five sections are followed by 4 appendices of charts and tables, a
glossary and a lengthy list of references. The inclusion of the charts
of both American English and Spanish phonemes is particularly helpful
for readers to understand the similarities and differences. Even though
the book is written in English, I would like to have seen the glossary
contain the Spanish equivalents of each of the terms (cf. Dalbor 1997)
so that students might have ready access to that information. I applaud
the by-chapter list of works cited and suggested readings. This offers
more advanced students, as well as those with a quest for more
knowledge in a particular area, easy access to further information. I
found the lack of an index to be quite annoying, as I tend to use it
liberally to search for and to refer back to the discussion of a
particular topic. Review questions for each chapter, which are on the
web, are useful for both students and teacher.

This is a solid text that I would highly recommend to all who teach
Spanish pronunciation, as well as to those who teach English
pronunciation to native Spanish speakers. It is full of information
that I, as a native speaker of English, found very useful. I will
definitely incorporate some of the author's explanations into my own
Spanish phonetics class the next time around. Although I agree
wholeheartedly with H's decision to write in English, I question this
text's suitability for beginning students, at least those I have taught
so far; for an advanced undergraduate or graduate course, I would use
it without hesitation. The author's presentation seemed a bit stilted
at times and might appear menacing to those who have no prior exposure
to linguistics. However, H's introductions and conclusions to each
chapter are precise, and they leave the reader expecting exactly what
is to come, then knowing for certain that the author's mission has been
accomplished. This book is good reference for beginning to advanced
students and a 'must' for every linguist's library.

Dalbor, John B.(1997). Spanish pronunciation: theory and practice.
Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Teschner, Richard V.(1996). Camino oral: fonetica, fonologia y practica
de los sonidos del espanol. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Stuart Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at
Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Her research interests
include second language acquisition, discourse analysis of native-
speaker/nonnative speaker interactions and language learner strategies.
She is currently conducting a study involving the listening
comprehension skills of fourth semester students of Spanish.
Stuart Stewart is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics at
Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Her research interests
include second language acquisition, discourse analysis of native-
speaker/nonnative speaker interactions and language learner strategies.
She is currently conducting a study involving the listening
comprehension skills of fourth semester students of Spanish.