Student review: English Phonetics and Phonology: An Introduction

November 8, 2012

Author: Philip Carr

Edition: Second

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Pages: 204

Price: £24.99

ISBN: 9781405134545

For newcomers to the world of linguistics, this is a solid starting point. Assuming no previous knowledge of phonetics and phonology, Philip Carr provides a broad and comprehensive coverage of the main principles and topics.

As any book of this kind should, this text offers an introduction that clarifies the important distinction between phonetics and phonology. By dedicating a chapter to this topic, Carr demonstrates that phonetics is the study of speech sounds whereas phonology is the study of the patterns of these sounds within a language.

Carr guides the reader through articulatory phonetics before moving on to the phonological structure of English, followed by the prosodic features of speech, such as rhythm, stress and intonation. The material is presented in well-structured and manageable chapters, and to challenge the reader's understanding, Carr provides a useful "Summing up" section at the end of each chapter, along with a set of exercises including familiarity with the International Phonetic Alphabet and practice in phonetic transcription.

The most significant aspect of this new edition is the online sound files that accompany the text, enabling the reader to become more familiar with topics such as intonation and the different varieties of spoken English. These files breathe life into the subject's written theories and remind us that human speech is primarily audible and dynamic.

At times, the book can be quite text-heavy, an issue that could be addressed with more visual aids. For example, in chapter 8, "Rhythm and word stress in English", pitch diagrams showing pitch accents would have been useful to juxtapose stressed and unstressed syllables. More helpfully, at the start of the book Carr provides two fundamental diagrams on the organs of speech and the International Phonetic Alphabet, both of which are indispensable to a beginner in phonetics and phonology.

Although this textbook ably covers the main principles of phonetics, a short introduction to acoustic phonetics showing its relation to articulatory phonetics would have been helpful. On the subject of phonological theory, Carr omits distinctive features in his attempt not to overwhelm the reader. Nevertheless, one must keep in mind that this book is only an introduction, and for the reader who is left with a thirst for deeper knowledge, Carr provides a helpful list of books for further reading.

As a linguistics student, I found this book very readable but lacking in some areas. For beginners, however, it will be a commendable and trustworthy preparatory text.

Who is it for? Beginners in phonetics and phonology.

Presentation: Simple and accessible.

Would you recommend it? Yes, particularly to those who are not majoring in linguistics.

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