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Review of  Phonological Theory: The Essential Readings

Reviewer: Tania Avgustinova
Book Title: Phonological Theory: The Essential Readings
Book Author: John A. Goldsmith
Publisher: Wiley
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Issue Number: 13.621

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Goldsmith, John A., ed. (1999) Phonological Theory: The
Essential Readings. Blackwell Publishers, viii+438pp,
paperback ISBN 0-631-20470-9.

Tania Avgustinova, Saarland University

This book deals exclusively with the most influential
themes in "mainstream American phonological theory". The
collection is designed to represent a homogeneous
theoretical tradition: it includes classic and contemporary
readings on key ideas of autosegmental phonology, syllable
structure, lexical phonology, metrical phonology, the
phonology-syntax interface, and optimality theory. The
papers are not selected simply by their historical
interest, but rather on the basis of their direct relevance
to issues of contemporary phonological theory.

In the Introduction (pages 1-16) Goldsmith presents the
motivation for this endeavour, as well as the selection
criteria applied. The volume contains items which, for
different reasons, have not been easily accessible, or as
Goldsmith points out in the opening paragraph of his
introduction, "[v]irtually all of them are available only
in xeroxed form to most people who entered the field in the
last few years". Therefore, it is not only helpful but a
real pleasure indeed to have all these influential articles
reproduced in their original form.

The 1st item (From "The Sound Patterns of English":
Phonetic and Phonological Representation, by Chomsky and
Halle, pages 17-21) is a brief passage summarising many of
the important principles behind this work which influences
most of the papers in the present collection. A basic
familiarity with classical generative is assumed. The key
idea is to minimise allomorphy by postulating a single
underlying phonological representation for each morpheme
and accounting for all other phonetic variation by means of
phonological rules.

The 2nd item (On the Role of Notation in Generative
Phonology, by McCawley, pages 22-33) takes up the crucial
notion of notational convention in Chomsky and Halle's view
of phonological theory.

The 3rd item (From Cyclic Phonology to Lexical Phonology,
by Kiparsky, pages 34-62) presents an objection to the
generative phonology By simplifying the form of
phonological rules so that they bear no explicit marking to
show what affixes trigger them, lexical phonology assumes
is a major attempt to defend the notion that phonology
applies in an automatic fashion. Rule application is
divided into lexical and post-lexical, with the former
being cyclic.

The 4th item (The Cycle in Phonology: Stress in
Palestinian, Maltese, and Spanish, by Brame, pages 63-82)
focuses on an understanding of cyclicity that is different
from that developed in lexical phonology. Here,
phonological effects on a complex word are motivated for a
subpart of the word.

The 5th item (On Phonotactically Motivated Rules, by
Sommerstein, pages 83-90) discusses weaknesses of a
derivational approach. In particular, generalisation
regarding surface patterns in Latin phonology are important
phonologically, but missed in two ways by classical
generative treatments.

The 6th item (Harmonic Phonology, by Goldsmith, pages 91-
101) reviews the relationship between the notion of
derivation and of levels in phonology, and the notion of
harmonic rule application. The key insight is to think of
constraints not as absolute conditions or filters but
rather as graded, so that one can speak of the relative
well-formedness of any two representations.

The 7th item (Generalized Alignment, by McCarthy and
Prince, pages 102-136) presents an early exploration in the
framework of Optimality Theory (OT). A number of familiar
typological patterns are reviewed to illustrate how OT
allows for a simple statement of these patterns (e.g.,
stress systems)

The 8th item (An Overview of Autosegmental Phonology, by
Goldsmith, pages 137-161) utilises tier-based autosegmental
representations to make the simplicity of an analysis much
more transparent and straightforward. A well-formedness
condition adds or deletes association links (handling thus
a significant part of the dynamic of the work of
phonological analysis), if the effect of that change was to
improve the well-formedness of the resulting

The 9th item (A Prosodic Theory of Nonconcatenative
Morphology, by McCarthy, pages 162-184) establishes the
importance of Semitic studies for mainstream phonological
theory. Crucially, much of the complexity of morphology is
shown to employ the full mechanisms of phonology. So,
morphology is reconsidered in the light of what one knows
of phonology.

The 10th item (From "CV Phonology: A Generative Theory of
the Syllable", by Clements and Keyser, pages 185-200)
argues in favour of organiseing phonological segments and
information into syllables, thus extending autosegmental
structure to segmental phonology. In particular, the most
of the behaviour of tones that motivate autosegmental
representation is claimed to find their counterparts in
segmental behaviour.

The 11th item (The Geometry of Phonological Features, by
Clements, pages 201-223) is concerned with developing a
universal organisation of phonological features. With each
feature being represented on a distinct autosegmental tier,
the features are themselves organised hierarchically in a

The 12th item (Inalterability in CV Phonology, by Hayes,
pages 224-237) presents an analysis of an abstract
phonological problem in the context of a non-prosodic
system using the autosegmental model of chapter 9 above.

The 13th item (Prosodic Morphology (1986), by McCarthy and
Prince, pages 238-288) presents a recent revision of an
influential manuscript that treats a range of topics which
are equally phonological and morphological.

The 14th item (On the Role of the Obligatory Contour
Principle in Phonological Theory, by Odden, pages 289-302)
is cpncerned with an important issue in autosegmental
analysis related to the role played in phonology by
multiple associations of a single segment. It offers a
critical discussion of a principle which has been
formulated to unambiguously choose multiple association
rather than repetition of an autosegment.

The 15th item (Phonology with Tiers, by Prince, pages 303-
312) shows that many languages permit a syllable structure
where a coda obstruent is permitted only if that obstruent
is the first part of geminate consonant.
The 16th item (Immediate Constituents of Mazateco
Syllables, by Pike and Pike, pages 313-327) is remarkably
ahead of its time in arguing that the theory of constituent
structure in syntactic analysis can be profitably
transferred to the study of syllable structure.

The 17th item (The Syllable, by Selkirk, pages 328-350) is
a detailed study of syllabification in English. It is
argued that the syllable is necessary for the most general
and explanatory statement of phonotactics and productive
rules in phonology. Crucially, the phonological structure
is assumed to be needed both below and above the level of
the syllable.

The 18th item (Compensatory Lengthening in Moraic
Phonology, by Hayes, pages 351-369) discusses the issue of
vowel length in a non-linear framework. A wide range of
compensatory lengthening is surveyed in this work. It
contains a representational proposal for the treatment of
moras, which allows for an account of many of the cases of
"otherwise strange" behaviour.

The 19th item (Syllables, by Fudge, pages 370-391) promotes
the syllable as an important element in the inventory of
theoretical concepts in phonology.

The 20th item (On Stress and Linguistic Rhythm, by Liberman
and Prince, pages 392-404) deals with stress systems of the
type found in English, interpreting them as being based (i)
on the prosodic constituency of an utterance and the
principles giving rise to that constituency, as well as
(ii) the relative prominence of sister constituents in the

The 21st item (Relating to the Grid, by Prince, pages 405-
414) is influential in reconsidering what is essential and
what is not in the view of metrical structure. The notion
of stress clash is considered very important. In
particular, the theory ought to have a simple and direct
way of assigning prominence on peripheral elements of a
domain, which is argued to be a generalisation more
fundamental then a constituency-based one.

The 22nd item (Extrametricality and English Stress, by
Hayes, pages 415-425) shows that the notion of
extrametrical constituent (employed in the 20th item above)
is essential in developing an elegant and coherent theory
of prosody that is applicable to a whole range of languages
(e.g., English, Arabic, Latin, and Hopi).

Finally, there is an Index (pages 426-438) of names and

The volume is designed not only to complement the Handbook
of Phonological Theory (Goldsmith 1995) but also to serve
as a primary text for course use. This collection can
strongly be recommended both in basic and advance courses
in phonological theory and general linguistics. The book
will become an important source for scholars, lecturers,
and students.

Goldsmith, John (ed.) The Handbook of Phonological Theory,
Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.

Tania Avgustinova received her Ph.D. in Slavic and
Computational Linguistics at Saarland University. In 1998
she was awarded an individual grant from the German science
foundation (DFG) to work on modular language-family
oriented grammar design at the Department of
Computational Linguistics and Phonetics in Saarbruecken.


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