Almost all first-year undergraduates studying English language or linguistics encounter English phonetics, phonology and accent-dialect variations. It is a pleasure to recommend a new textbook, and a second edition, that together meet the requirements of such students so satisfactorily.
Philip Carr's book provides an approachable overview of English sound structure, from consonant and vowel articulation through phonemes, syllable structure and word stress to rhythm, connected speech and intonation. The excellent range of exercises will allow students to make steady progress from segment to sentence, while a final chapter and appendix provide a well-illustrated survey of accent variation.
Carr's book is unusual in devoting considerably more space to phonology above the segment than to vowels and consonants. This is in keeping with the current preoccupations of phonological theory and should provide an appropriate framework for advanced courses. But with nothing on distinctive features, there is a danger of seeing segments as monoliths that serve simply to build larger structures, rather than as interesting phonological objects. Some such choices, however, are inevitable in any introductory text.
Carr's final chapters on variation feed directly into Peter Trudgill's more detailed treatment of English dialects. Trudgill's first chapter introduces linguistic and political aspects of dialect, while chapters two and three survey the phonology of traditional dialects (broadly, the older, rural ones) and modern dialects (the newer, urban varieties). Chapters four and five outline dialect grammar and vocabulary respectively, with chapter five providing a helpful introduction to language contact and historical linguistics.
This second edition is greatly improved by its introduction of international phonetic alphabet transcriptions to supplement the earlier, inescapably ambiguous orthography-based representations. I would have liked to see a little more on estuary English; and I cannot help feeling that a more inclusive look at British English outside England might have been useful. However, as with Carr's book, restrictions in coverage are easier to accept if they accompany brevity, clarity and accessibility.
April McMahon is professor of English language and linguistics, University of Sheffield.
The Dialects of English: Second Edition
Author - Peter Trudgill
ISBN - 0 631 21814 9 and 21815 7
Publisher - Blackwell
Price - £40.00 and £13.99
Pages - 160