27.5069, Review: English; Spanish; Latin Subgroup; General Ling; Phonetics; Phonology: González, de los Ángeles, Sánchez Roura (2016)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-27-5069. Mon Dec 12 2016. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 27.5069, Review: English; Spanish; Latin Subgroup; General Ling; Phonetics; Phonology: González, de los Ángeles, Sánchez Roura (2016)

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Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2016 10:47:55
From: Mª Ángeles Jurado Bravo [maajurad at ucm.es]
Subject: English Pronunciation for Speakers of Spanish

Discuss this message:

Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/27/27-1060.html

AUTHOR: Gómez  González
AUTHOR: María  de los Ángeles
AUTHOR: Teresa  Sánchez Roura
TITLE: English Pronunciation for Speakers of Spanish
SUBTITLE: From Theory to Practice
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Mª Ángeles Jurado Bravo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Reviews Editor: Robert A. Cote


María de los Ángeles Gómez González and Teresa Sánchez Roura's book “English
Pronunciation for Speakers of Spanish: From Theory to Practice” is an
introductory textbook addressed to Spanish university students of the Received
Pronunciation (RP) English phonological system. The authors opt for a
contrastive analysis approach in order to present the most relevant
information because (a) ''it allows the authors to take into account the
interlanguage phonological system of learners'', (b) they ''can anticipate and
thereby help to circumvent the difficulties that SSLE [Spanish-speaking
learners of English] may encounter when producing and hearing RP sounds'' and
(c) it favours ''holistic learning'' (pp. 84-86).

The first sections of the book include a list of the abbreviations and the
phonetic symbols used throughout the book as well as the section ''Purpose and
Scope of the Book''. In this introductory section, the authors briefly mention
the aim of the book (''help SSLE sound as close as possible to native English,
or, at least, acquire an intelligible RP pronunciation'' (p. xxv)).
Furthermore, they present the accompanying website, which includes a series of
audio tracks and illustrations in order to help the reader understand how RP
English is pronounced, and the methodology followed (contrastive analysis).
Finally, a short summary of each of the seven chapters in the book is
provided. As mentioned by the authors, all the chapters follow a similar
structure: first, a general introduction to the topic, followed by an in-depth
description of the English phonological system and the comparison with the
Spanish one. At the end of each chapter, the authors include suggestions for
further reading and a section with exercises related to the chapter (p. xxv).

Chapter 1, “Phonetics and Phonology”, serves as an overall introduction to the
key terms that are used throughout the book. After positioning phonetics and
phonology within the larger field of linguistics, the authors describe both
concepts, paying special attention to the different aspects of these fields.
Emphasis is put on the comparison of English and Spanish syllable structures
so that Spanish speakers of English are aware of the large amount of consonant
clusters that exist in English and their complexity in comparison to Spanish.
After this, the authors present the reader with the International Phonetic
Alphabet (IPA) and the types of transcription that can be done from either a
written or spoken text. The chapter finishes with a contrastive analysis of RP
English and Peninsular Spanish (PSp) and some pieces of advice on how to
transcribe these two languages.

Chapter 2, “The Production and Classification of Speech Sounds” focuses on the
articulatory and acoustic characteristics of sounds. The first part of the
chapter focuses on the speech organs, which the authors divide in three groups
(respiratory, phonatory and articulatory) depending on the function they
fulfill in the production of sounds. The second part of the chapter deals with
the classification of sounds in terms of their articulatory features. Thus,
vowels are described in terms of tongue shape, lip shape, duration, and
steadiness of the articulatory gesture, while consonants are characterised in
terms of voicing, place of articulation and manner of articulation. In the
third and last section of this chapter, the authors describe the acoustic
features of sounds, introducing the concept of vowel formants and their
relation to the articulation of sounds. Furthermore, they briefly describe the
acoustic characteristics of consonants and how they can be identified in a

Chapters 3 and 4, “Vowels and Vowel Glides” and “Consonants”, are devoted to
the presentation of RP vowels, vowel glides (Chapter 3) and consonants
(Chapter 4), and the comparison to the Spanish phoneme inventory. Both
chapters follow a similar structure; after briefly mentioning the major
differences between RP English and Spanish inventories, the authors describe
each of the English sounds in more detail in terms of the following
parameters: IPA symbols, identification, position in the CVS [cardinal vowel
scale] (in the case of vowels), allophones (in the case of consonants),
description, environment, spellings, regional and social variants, comparison
with Spanish and advice, and further practice. The authors group the sounds
considering different criteria. First, monophthongs are presented in ''five
groups, corresponding to the five mappings of perceptual vowel space [...]
that SSLE [Spanish-speaking Learners of English] tend to make'' (p. 90).
Second, glides are categorised in closing diphthongs, centring diphthongs and
triphthongs. Finally, consonants are grouped regarding their manner of
articulation. Within these groups, consonants are further classified according
to their place of articulation, so that no more than two sounds are presented
at a time.

Chapter 5, “Segment Dynamics: Aspects of Connected Speech” deals with
connected speech, that is, the changes that phonemes undergo when in contact
with other sounds, both at the word boundary and within the word. More
specifically, they focus on different types of coarticulation, assimilation,
by which a phoneme is substituted by another due to the influence of
surrounding sounds, elision of consonants, juncture, and gradation, including
a presentation of the most common weak forms of function words in English.

Chapter 6, “Beyond the Segment: Stress, Rhythm and Intonation”, deals with
suprasegmental features, namely stress (both word stress and sentence stress),
rhythm and intonation. First, the authors present ''the most frequent patterns
[of word stress] that may prove useful for students'' (p. 265). Second, they
describe English rhythm or prosodic stress, emphasising the use of nuclear and
contrastive stress. Third, the authors focus on intonation patterns and their
functions, such as attitudinal, grammatical or pragmatic. Finally, the last
section of this chapter is devoted to the contrastive analysis between English
and Spanish, with special attention paid to  the aspects which could be
problematic for Spanish speakers of English, such as the correct production of
stress-time rhythm.

Finally, Chapter 7, “Predicting Pronunciation from Spelling (and Vice Versa)”,
focuses on text-to-speech and speech-to-text rules. The first section of this
chapter is devoted to the former, in which the authors distinguish four types
of orthographic syllables, namely lax (when it finishes in a consonant other
than <r>), tense (when it finishes in a vowel), heavy (when it finishes in
<r>) and r-tense (when it finishes in <r> but other vowel follows the
consonant). Following this classification, the authors summarise how
orthographic vowels in stressed syllables are usually pronounced depending on
the context in which they appear. For the description of these rules as
applied to consonants, they consider the parameters of voicing and silent
letters. The second part of the chapter presents speech-to-text rules in
tabular form, summarising  the information presented in the section
''spelling'' in Chapters 3 and 4.

A section with further transcription practice, the answer key to all the
exercises in the book, references and a Subject Index conclude the book.

The book is accompanied by a website with materials that can be used both in
class or as individual work at home. The webpage is organised into five
sections: (a) sound bank, including a description of all the sounds of RP and
PSp, (b) exercises, in which students can revise the theoretical concepts and
practice sounds, (c) audio illustrations, where authors include the recordings
that accompany the book, (d) resources, which consist of plenty of links to
external websites containing related information, and (e) glossaries,
containing links to external dictionaries of phonetics and pronunciation. 


This textbook is addressed specifically to Spanish university students in
their first years of tertiary education. The way in which the information is
structured and presented makes it an excellent introductory textbook for which
no previous knowledge on English phonetics and phonology is required. However,
the lack of detail in describing a few aspects encourages its use in the
classroom, where a teacher can further explain them. Otherwise, the reader may
need to resort to further readings in order to get a full description of
certain features. Nonetheless, in case the reader is already familiar with the
most common terminology and wishes to resume the study of English phonology,
they will find it easy to follow. Furthermore, even though the authors claim
that the book is addressed to those who ''wish to improve their English
pronunciation'' (p. xxiv), without the guidance of a teacher, the reader may
find it very hard to actually improve their pronunciation by just reading
about how to articulate the sounds.

The book presents an appropriate structure for a textbook. The fact that the
first chapters are devoted to presenting the fields of phonetics and phonology
(Chapter 1) and the classification of speech sounds regarding their
articulatory characteristics (Chapter 2) makes it an exceptional introduction
to the book since it goes from the general to the specific. The rest of the
chapters are also presented in such a way that a smooth transition from
segmentals to connected speech and suprasegmentals is achieved. Nevertheless,
the last chapter, ''Predicting pronunciation from spelling (and vice versa)'',
appears to break with the overall organisation of the book because it returns
to the discussion of segmentals in relation to their spelling (information
also introduced in Chapters 3 and 4). It seems to be an appendix to which the
reader can turn to in order to find the required information in a
straightforward manner, a task which the authors facilitate by presenting all
the data in tabular form.

The structure of the chapters in isolation is similar to that of the book as a
whole, that is, from general to specific. This allows the reader to get
familiar with a topic before concentrating on applying the theory to a
specific linguistic background (English) and contrasting it with their own
language (Spanish). Moreover, the authors continuously make reference to other
sections within the book so that the reader obtains a detailed and holistic
explanation of a topic.

The style chosen by the authors in order to present the information is
adequate for the expected reader. First, the authors recapitulate certain
sections at the end of them, which helps the reader remember all the
information in a nutshell. Second, the text includes plenty of footnotes, in
which the authors define words or provide further information not directly
related to the main text but nevertheless interesting or significant. For
example, when describing RP, the authors include a footnote to clarify that RP
is not a single accent but an ''umbrella term that is used to refer to a
number of varieties'' (p.35). Third, keywords are highlighted in bold. This
technique serves two purposes: on the one hand, it allows the reader/student
to be aware of the central concepts they should learn in order to understand
the field; on the other hand, it facilitates the task of finding the most
relevant information at first glance when reading the book again or when
looking for a specific extract. For instance, on page 36, the authors
highlight the words ''RP'', ''forty-nine sounds'', ''PSp [peninsular
Spanish]'' and ''forty-two sounds'' so that without reading the entire
paragraph, the reader knows that the authors are comparing the sound
inventories of both languages and how many sounds each language has. However,
sometimes the text is full with words and phrases in bold, which complicates
the reading. For example, the first paragraph on page 54 consists of 21 lines
and 35 words are highlighted since a lot of new terms related to the
articulation of sounds are introduced for the first time.

The book's content focuses on articulatory phonetics, offering a complete
description of this subfield. The large number of figures and diagrams of the
organs of speech and its functioning provides an extraordinary depiction of
articulatory phonetics. However, an introduction to the acoustic features of
sounds is also provided in Chapter 2, exemplified with several spectrograms
which help the reader be initiated in this area and recognise some sounds in
the spectrogram.
The text is not excessively technical and the frequent examples throughout the
book facilitates the understanding of how English words are pronounced,
including some common exceptions to the rules. Also, the section ''Further
reading'' at the end of each chapter provides a complete revision of the most
relevant works dealing with the topics described, although many of them are
also introductory texts or textbooks. Additionally, the section ''Exercises''
includes activities which the teacher can introduce in their lessons so as to
revise the contents of the course and provide further practice, in terms of
both producing sounds and transcribing texts phonetically or orthographically.

Overall, the book lacks a descriptive approach. The authors base their work on
the nativeness principle (Levis, 2005), focusing on the students trying to
''avoid, whenever possible, the presence of a foreign accent'' (p. 14), even
though they claim that thanks to the book under review, students will be
intelligible. The authors focus their attention on RP, without barely
mentioning other native accents of English. It is true that when dealing with
vowels and consonants, there is a section devoted to the variations that these
phonemes present in other dialects, but they are generally variations of RP or
other British accents, with few references to American, Australian or other
native accents. Furthermore, in these sections, the authors introduce plenty
of phoneme variations which correspond to sounds present in neither RP nor
Spanish, thus readers cannot know how different those sounds are from the
chosen standard. It would have been interesting to have been able to listen to
these variations so that the reader can notice the difference between RP and
the local varieties of the language. Furthermore, given the large amount of
research devoted to the use of English in international contexts, I think it
would have been interesting to dedicate a section to this issue, introducing
the concepts of World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) so that
students are aware of the great diversity of Englishes that exists nowadays.

Finally, the accompanying website includes an enormous amount of additional
material. The sound bank provides the reader with a complete description of
the phonological systems of both languages since it contains animations of the
articulations of RP and PSp phonemes and short videos of real people producing
the sounds in isolation and within words. Also, the large number of exercises
directly related to what is explained in the book presents the reader with
plenty of opportunities to discriminate sounds, practice their articulation
and transcribe short texts phonetically and/or orthographically. Furthermore,
these activities are organised regarding the chapters of the book so that it
is easier to find appropriate exercises at any moment. Finally, the links to
additional external material are an excellent means of providing the readers
with a small database to which they can turn in case they want to expand their
knowledge on a certain aspect of English and/or Spanish pronunciation.

To sum up, the book under review is an excellent introductory textbook which
will help Spanish university students get to know the RP phonological system
and compare it with their own. The focus on articulatory phonetics and the use
of a contrastive approach represent an ideal methodology to improve the RP
pronunciation of non-native speakers of English, since it facilitates the
understanding of the production of sounds by analysing how speech organs are
positioned and by comparing them with sounds that speakers are able to
pronounce. The combination of theory and practice provides a perfect approach
to the book's purpose.


Levis, J. M. (2005). Changing Contexts and Shifting Paradigms in Pronunciation
Teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 39(3), 369–377. http://doi.org/10.2307/3588485


Mª Ángeles Jurado-Bravo is a PhD candidate at the Universidad Complutense de
Madrid (Spain). Her research focuses on teaching English pronunciation under
an ELF (English as a Lingua Franca) perspective. She is interested in English
phonetics and phonology, ELF and dialectology.


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