Date: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 12:09:26 -0500 From: John Stevens Subject: Sonido y sentido: Theoria y práctica de la pronunciación del español
AUTHOR: Guitart, Jorge M. TITLE: Sonido y sentido SUBTITLE: Teoría y práctica de la pronunciación del español con audio CD SERIES: Georgetown Studies in Spanish Linguistics PUBLISHER: Georgetown University Press YEAR: 2004
John J. Stevens, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of North Carolina Wilmington
This volume is an introduction to Spanish phonetics and phonology. It is written entirely in Spanish and is intended mainly for English- speaking undergraduate students of Spanish in the United States.
In the preface, Guitart states that this book will offer assistance to those whose goal is to learn to communicate orally in Spanish based on the following assumptions: First, the more a second language (L2) learner approximates the pronunciation of the target language, the easier it will be to understand him or her. Second, it is possible to improve L2 pronunciation by combining conscious knowledge of the language with practice such that this knowledge becomes unconscious and is therefore applied automatically. Finally, an awareness of how Spanish sounds are organized within a system combined with a knowledge of the phonological processes to which they are subject will facilitate the pronunciation and comprehension of words and phrases in which these sounds appear (p. xix).
The book contains 20 chapters and includes a glossary of terms, a select bibliography, and an index. Chapter 1 presents some fundamental notions regarding human languages in general and the Spanish language in particular. Chapters 2 through 4 introduce articulatory phonetics and describe the sounds of Spanish in traditional terms of voicing and manner and place of articulation. Chapters 5 through 8 offer an introduction to the theoretical/descriptive analysis of Spanish phonology from a generative perspective, which assumes that there are invariable, underlying psychological forms, variable surface forms and processes that relate the two levels. Chapters 9 through 19 combine the description of Spanish sounds with practice exercises designed to improve pronunciation by reducing or eliminating the amount of English ''accent'' exhibited in L2 Spanish. These practice exercises are supported by a companion CD, which contains the audio version of the exercises. Each of the chapters in this part of the book also contains a section on the significant dialectal differences exhibited by the phenomena being examined in that particular chapter (''Variación lectal de interés''), as well as a section detailing important pronunciation differences between Spanish and English (''Diferencias principales con el inglés''). Finally, chapter 20 focuses on the most common errors found among English-speaking learners of L2 Spanish and offers advice on how to achieve a more native-like accent in Spanish.
This is a very well written and organized book. Guitart provides clear explanations of content generally considered difficult by undergraduate students, especially those with no previous background in phonetics or linguistics. As an aid to comprehension, the author makes use of bold type script, summarizes key concepts that appear in the margins of the text, gives occasional English translations, and concludes each chapter with a summary section that synthesizes the chapter's content and reviews important technical vocabulary.
Authors of Spanish phonetics and phonology textbooks have tended to employ different phonetic alphabets to represent the sounds of Spanish (e.g., Dalbor 1997; Hammond 2001; Teschner 1999). Guitart solves this problem by wisely adopting the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) on the grounds that it is the most widely used phonetic alphabet in the world. He offers ample opportunity to practice using the IPA in the transcription exercises provided throughout the book.
Perhaps the book's greatest advantage is its level of detail. Guitart goes beyond a mere contrastive analysis of the differences between Spanish and English by providing a complete account of Spanish dialectal and stylistic variation. Throughout the book, the author's descriptive analyses are supported by theoretical explanations that emphasize the relationship between the physical manifestation of speech sounds and the psychological aspects of speech production and perception.
Paradoxically, the book's greatest strength--its level of detail and theoretical support--may not make it the best choice for nonspecialists merely interested in improving their Spanish pronunciation. For example, the author states that [β ð ɣ] are continuant sounds that can be realized as either fricatives or approximants: These sounds are considered obstruents when they are fricatives, but should be considered as sonorants when they are approximants (p. 31). While this information may be important for a specialist, a student with no previous background may be intimidated and confused by the technical aspects of the description, especially because there are no special symbols designating the approximant pronunciation of these sounds. Similarly, the author describes voiced fricative variants [β ð ɣ] for the phonemes /p t k/, respectively, which occur post-nuclearly in an allegretto (moderately fast) style (p. 100). Again, while useful for the serious student specializing in Spanish phonetics, this additional information regarding the occurrence of the voiced fricatives may prove disconcerting to those students already struggling to sort out the allophonic distribution of the plosive/fricative alternation of the voiced plosive phonemes /b d g/.
Although Guitart does an excellent job of detailing variation among different dialects of Spanish in the chapter sections entitled ''Variación dialectal'', he fails to include the voiceless uvular fricative /χ/ in the chapter dealing specifically with fricatives. He does mention this sound in the beginning of the book as part of a short section on uvular sounds, where he states that in some sublects of the Spanish of Castile uvular fricative is pronounced instead of velar [x] (p. 37). The pronunciation of the uvular fricative is actually quite common in Spain. According to Canfield, ''the [x] of Spain (except the South) is usually uvular'' (1981, p. 10). If in the chapter devoted to fricatives Guitart describes the interdental /θ/ and the apico-alveolar /s̺/ fricatives as characteristic features of the dialects of central and northern Spain, he should then also include a detailed description of uvular /χ/, which is a common and very salient feature of these dialects.
The book's practice exercises are good. Guitart offers opportunities throughout the book to practice phonetic transcription, and the ''Para pensar'' sections provided in each chapter force students to think critically about the topics discussed in that particular chapter. Although the author does furnish an answer key for the ''Para pensar'' exercises, the book would have benefitted as well from the inclusion of answers to the transcription exercises thereby enabling students to check their own work.
The quality of the sound of the companion CD is not the best due to a reverberation effect evident in the recorded practice exercises. The CD program would have been strengthened by the inclusion of recorded samples of dialectal variation, as well as samples illustrating pronunciation differences between largo, andante, allegretto, and presto styles of speech.
The above criticisms are not meant to diminish in any way the overall excellence of this book and should be taken instead as suggestions that may possibly benefit a future edition. All things considered, this work represents a valuable contribution to the field and will be especially useful for advanced students specializing in the field of Spanish phonetics and phonology and/or Hispanic linguistics.
Canfield, D. Lincoln. 1981. Spanish Pronunciation in the Americas. Chicago: U of Chicago P.
Dalbor, John B. 1997. Spanish Pronunciation: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Hammond, Robert M. 2001. The Sounds of Spanish: Analysis and Application (with Special Reference to American English). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Teschner, Richard. 1999. Camino oral: Fonética, fonología y práctica de los sonidos del español. 2nd. ed. New York: McGraw Hill.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
John J. Stevens received his Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics from the University of Southern California. He is currently an assistant professor of Spanish at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he teaches courses in Spanish language and linguistics. His research interests include applied linguistics, sociolinguistics, and phonetics. He has published articles on Spanish dialectal variation and the acquisition of Spanish as a second language.