The Gift of Speech: Readings in the Analysis of Speech and Voice

The Gift of Speech: Readings in the Analysis of Speech and Voice

The Gift of Speech: Readings in the Analysis of Speech and Voice

The Gift of Speech: Readings in the Analysis of Speech and Voice

Excerpt

The task of preparing this collection of papers for publication in one volume has given me the occasion to reflect on the breadth of modern phonetics, and in particular on my own perspective on the subject. When I first came into contact with phonetics in 1958, as an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh attending a one-year introductory course which, in the vocabulary traditional to Scottish universities, was then called the 'Ordinary Course in Phonetics', the scope of the subject (in the Edinburgh view) was already wide.

The core of the subject was then (as it remains today) a general phonetic theory that chiefly addressed the obligation to provide a descriptive vocabulary to support linguistic interests in spoken language. Chomsky had just published Syntactic Structures (1957), the first of the books he was to write which changed the paradigm of linguistic theory. His contribution to phonetics and phonology with Morris Halle, The Sound Pattern of English (Chomsky andHalle, 1968) lay ten years in the future. Psycholinguistics had just appeared, and sociolinguistics lay on the distant horizon (at least, as names for subjects).

Experimental phonetics was already very well-established, with acoustic investigations dominated by spectrography, a technique which had been introduced to phonetics only in the previous decade by American researchers in speech communication, coming from military and industrial backgrounds. Another strand that was strongly evident in the interests of the phoneticians of that time at Edinburgh was speech therapy and pathology. Many members of the Department of Phonetics taught courses on phonetics to the students of the Edinburgh School of Speech Therapy, and common research interests and collaboration continue to the present day.

The scholar whose vision of wide professional horizons most influenced the scope and nature of phonetics as a subject at that time in Edinburgh was David Abercrombie, the Head of the Department of Phonetics. It was the custom then in Scottish universities that the most senior academic . . .

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