Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"
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AUTHORS: Ashby, Michael; Maidment, John TITLE: Introducing Phonetic Science SERIES: Cambridge Introductions to Language and Linguistics PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2005
Rita Mathur, visiting scholar, Mumbai
This new textbook is ideal for undergraduate students of linguistics. Its aim is to introduce the rudiments of phonetics including the acoustic properties of sounds. Thus, the book introduces speech articulation and deals with other aspects of language that are associated with speech. Functional aspects of phonetics are also introduced, including how sound segments along with supra-segments function in different languages of the world, how these segments can be analyzed under theoretical frameworks, and how general rules can be formulated. The book also addresses the written aspect of language and introduces various types of writing systems. Each chapter is followed by exercises and a further reading list. Solutions to the exercises are given at the end. A glossary of the linguistic terms is also provided, which is a handy guide for students. The book is not only good for the student of linguistics but also useful for speech scientists and speech pathologists working in the area of hearing impairment.
1: Introduction to speech. The first chapter introduces the wide horizon of languages and the ways they are written and spoken. It also talks about the units of speech: syllables, vowels and consonants. Transcription using the IPA chart is introduced. Finally, the chapter introduces the notions of normal and pathological speech.
2: Voice. This chapter covers the basic anatomy of the larynx and its function, and brings out the basic articulatory and acoustic differences between voiced and voiceless sounds. The also discusses various measuring devices, including the laryngograph and stroboscopic devices for measuring and filming vocal fold vibrations.
3: Place of Articulation. This chapter includes an anatomical description of the vocal tract and describes the principal places of articulation of consonant sounds. It covers active and passive articulators and their function in complex articulation, and goes on to discuss primary and secondary articulation. It includes a brief overview of the methods and techniques by which place of articulation can be experimentally determined, including electropalatography, x-ray photography and magnetic resonance imaging.
4: Manner of articulation. This chapter elaborates the various manners of articulation focusing on the distinction between obstruent and sonorant sounds. It also describes how manners of articulation are used in the languages of the world.
5: Vowels. This chapter focuses on the basic concepts for the classification and description of vowel sounds, describing the vowel quadrilateral and cardinal vowels. It also introduces the acoustic properties of vowels, including vowel spectra and formants, acoustic resonance, excitation resonance and filtering by resonance; it also describes the relationship between vowel articulation and acoustic properties.
6: Voice II. This chapter deals with aspiration, and specifically with aspiration and devoicing in English, and also the use of aspiration in the languages of the world. Various phonation types are introduced. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the laryngeal waveform, and of voice onset time and how to measure it.
7: Air Stream mechanisms. This chapter introduces various air-stream mechanisms necessary for speech articulation, including direction of the airflow (egressive and ingressive). It mentions particularly the nonpulmonic sounds used in the world's languages and deals with the acoustic and auditory properties of these sounds.
8: Speech sounds and speech movements. This chapter deals with speech articulation involving more than one place of articulation and focuses on how sounds influence their neighboring sounds, overlapping articulation and variation in segment duration. Estimated movement of the articulators is diagrammed. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the different ways to obtain acoustic and physiological data concerning the flow of speech.
9: Basic phonological concepts. This chapter introduces basic phonological concepts, including the phoneme and the notion of sound patterns in language. It deals with how sounds can be grouped into syllables, the phonological processes, features, and how phonological rules can be formulated.
10: Suprasegmentals. This chapter covers the notions of fundamental frequency and suprasegmentals, including stress, tone, intonation. It also deals with paralinguistic features and their use in conveying speaker attitude.
11: Speaker and hearer. The final chapter sheds light on the hearing mechanism, on speech perception and the use of visual cues in speech perception. Finally it deals with speech development in normal children and in children with hearing impairment.
The book covers the basic concepts and experimental techniques of both articulatory and acoustic phonetics, and provide an excellent overall view of the subject. The authors' approach, in my opinion, is not only good for students but for teachers as well. The book fulfils its purpose of teaching phonetics, as well as igniting the desire to learn more about it. The authors have provided relevant references for further reading after each chapter.
In the very beginning of the book, a transcribed paragraph introduces the basic concept of transcription, making clear the basic difference between orthography and transcription. I agree with the authors that this distinction is very important. As a teacher, the first question I face from students is "what is relation between speech and writing?" The authors go on to discuss various sorts of writing systems (alphabetic, syllabic and logographic, though very briefly.
Another useful feature of this book is its introduction to hearing and speech perception. These domains are introduced from a communicative perspective. From the text, students are able to learn what acoustic events are necessary for perceiving a particular speech sound.
The most positive feature of the book is that it provides a solid foundation in articulatory phonetics, with the help of diagrams and charts. Such notions as the constriction of the air stream to different degrees, the position of soft palate, and the speed of the articulatory gesture are all well introduced. Although the treatment of acoustic phonetic concepts is less extensive, I consider this to be an excellent textbook, sufficient for beginning students of phonetic science. The exercises at the end of each chapter, and the solutions complement the text well.
Ladefoged, P. (2001) A Course in Phonetics. Thompson Learning.
Laver. John. (1994) Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
The reviewer is a visiting faculty member in various university departments of linguistics in Mumbai, India. She is also visiting linguist in a speech and hearing institute in Mumbai. Her research interest is in phonetics. Currently she is working on acoustic cues for the perception of sounds in children.