Sounds work in colour

Introducing Phonology. First edition - Introducing Phonetic Science. First edition
December 2, 2005

The days of monochrome textbooks, with dense black text on a white background, may be numbered on the evidence of these volumes, two of the first in Cambridge University Press's new "Introducing..." linguistics series. Both use lots of white space, section headings to split up the text and a few shades of blue to emphasise key terms and provide background shading for summaries, exercises and little comment boxes in the page margins. This tasteful use of colour is the most immediately striking quality, but there is much else to praise in both books, along with, naturally, a few niggles.

It is instructive to compare the two texts. Both have clear contents tables, indices, glossaries, chapter-end exercises, lists of "key terms" and copious chapter summaries, but David Odden's text on phonology has a list of references where Michael Ashby and John Maidment's phonetics text has answers to the exercises - and this difference is perhaps telling.

Ashby and Maidment simply didactically present what they take to be the facts of phonetic analysis, while Odden's text is more immersed in the development of theoretical argument; it is longer and discusses many extensive data sets from a vast range of languages. Ashby and Maidment's volume seems more introductory, and would be suitable for a first-year course in phonetics. Odden's might work better for an honours foundation phonology course.

Ashby and Maidment succeed resoundingly in introducing the basics of phonetics from scratch, although some of the ideas they mention are discussed so briefly that the passages serve only as hints that these things exist. They have illustrated the text excellently, with large, well-explained spectrograms and diagrams, and the volume is clearly written, with individual chapters on place and manner of articulation, phonation, air-stream mechanisms, co-articulation, suprasegmentals, speech perception and basic phonology. They introduce acoustics early and integrate the discussion of instrumental methods of investigation throughout. They make better use than does Odden of the book's companion website, giving plenty of extra exercises, links and sound files. Odden's site includes a few further exercises, but mostly features extra text to deepen the book's coverage of (the history of) American phonological theory.

Although never shy of (traditional rule-based) theory, Odden's book stands out among phonology textbooks thanks to its focus on data and analysis, building through chapters on the place of phonetics, allophony, underlying representations, rule interaction and phonological features, to chapter seven, which narrates complex derivational analyses.

Students of phonology and of phonetics would benefit from reading these books, and will find in them some explanations that are clearly better than those available elsewhere.

Patrick Honeybone is lecturer in English Language, Edinburgh University.

Introducing Phonology. First edition

Author - David Odden
Publisher - Cambridge University Press
Pages - 348
Price - £40.00 and £17.99
ISBN - 0 521 82669 1 and 53404 6

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