Applied Phonetics

Applied Phonetics

Applied Phonetics

Applied Phonetics

Excerpt

The title Applied Phonetics has been given to this book to suggest its main intent: to apply phonetic symbols and nomenclature to the description of the principal varieties of the English language in America and the British Isles. Actually, the name is not entirely accurate in respect to the first part of the book, where phonetic modes of thought and phonetic symbols are given preliminary presentation without specific application. However, the presentation is reasonably selective, so that although the material is of the nature of general, rather than applied, phonetics, it is less extended than in most general discussions. The remainder of the book can without qualification be called applied phonetics.An applied phonetics book is by definition a practical book. It is also a highly eclectic book. Its eclecticism lies in part in its plan of selection from the informational and theoretic material available. As of this date, such selection is a matter for much thought. In the days of Franklin, Ellis, and Bell, and of Sweet, Passy, and Viëtor, the known items of phonetic information seemed very final and were certainly very sparse; nowadays little information can be trusted to be final and the items are certainly not sparse. Instead, there is a welter of many kinds of information: the theories of de Saussure, Trubetzkoy, and Bloomfield have burst upon us; and the X-ray, slow-motion photography, and the spectrograph have heaped their findings before us. With this great wealth of material at hand, writing on any phase of phonetics has become a difficult undertaking, and, critical opinion being what it is, a dangerous one.Of the phases of study suggested above, this book contains selected material somewhat as indicated in the following list:

1. Anatomy. Confined to the gross features that can be comprehended from pictures, charts, models, and discussions.

2. Physics. Confined to information that is demonstrable by illustrations, drawings, and simple apparatus.

3. History of the English language. Very little.

4. The phoneme. The phonemic concept is used many times, as required. Any impulse to use extensive phonemic transcription, however, is herein firmly resisted; the purposes of this book are better served by phonetic transcription.

5. Close transcription. This book avoids the overweening specificity of too great a clutter of diacritics and special phonetic symbols. The transcription undertakes to strike a usable mean between the extremes of generalization and particularization.

6. Instruments. The new instrumentation is referred to, but sparingly, since the emphasis of this book is on practical phonetics.

7. Isolation of sounds vs. sounds in context. The differences between sounds in isolation and sounds in context are recognized, but for the most part it is necessary herein to discuss sounds in their isolated forms.

8. Standards of correctness. All educated people recognize standards of correctness in personal practice -- even those who affect to scorn them in principle. Such contradicting attitudes must surely arise from confusion between the functions of phonetics per se -- that is, general phonetics, which has no opinions on correctness -- and the functions of applied phonetics, which is regularly used as an instrument for inculcating standards of speech. This book describes both standard and substandard speech. Despite all attempts to find out what is believed to be acceptable generally, there will be some statements reflecting the writer's own practice or predilection. These are certain to differ with the practices, predilections, or perhaps the more accurate knowledge of some other people. We shall doubtless hear from these people, often with profit. Any statement concerning standard or substandard speech runs the risk of being called prescriptive -- a term of negative, even scornful, connotation. But those who insist that what is called substandard is actually as "standard" as what is called standard are being prescriptive too. Perhaps the two prescriptions will balance each other.

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