Ladefoged's "A Course in Phonetics" is one of the most well-known and best phonetics books around. It is an excellent volume covering just about everyLadefoged's "A Course in Phonetics" is one of the most well-known and best phonetics books around. It is an excellent volume covering just about every element one must know to have a solid base in phonetics. The breakdown favors native English speakers, (and American ones in the US edition, at least) first providing a clear description of the phonetics of English including prosodic features, consonants, and vowels before moving on to all other sound systems. It is fantastically complete given the size.
One of the strengths of the volume lies in the insightful walkthroughs on producing some of the more difficult sounds, using such hints as how to determine which method of articulation one uses to produce the American English "R." To determine whether one bunch the tongue or curl the tip up, carefully insert a toothpick between one's teeth and judging by the point of contact on the surface or bottom of the tongue, it is easy to figure out. Other techniques, such as sucking in air to feel exposed areas for laterals, all provide extremely helpful ways of both identifying and articulating nearly all sounds. Furthermore, each chapter end includes a bevvy of performance exercises one can use to practice and alternate between sounds, getting down the rhythm of expression.
One of the only real weaknesses to the volume is in the CD portion. While immensely helpful, the CD was not updated between the 5th and 6th edition (even though it has "6th" printed on it). The exercises on the CD therefore do not match those in the book, yet it is really only a different order so still usable. On that point, I really noticed no differences between the 5th and 6th edition other than the exercises, which pisses me off to the classic tune of the publisher's release of a new edition for no legitimate reason. Especially given this book is expensive as sin (I paid around $120 for a new edition).
Those bureaucratic complaints aside, this book is the best there is currently for phonetics from of the most important people to have worked in the field. The illustrations and charts are extremely helpful for driving home points, the aforementioned descriptions are useful, and the glossary in the end is excellent. If you want to study some phonetics, get this....more
There's always more room for making syntax approachable. Few want to read Chomsky's god-awful, giant (and often iEDIT: fixed some terrible sentences.
There's always more room for making syntax approachable. Few want to read Chomsky's god-awful, giant (and often imparsable) sentences (see Chomsky Bot) so there is always a need for more approachable writing on Generative Grammar. The beauty of this book, however, is also one of its largest downfalls. Taking the "logic of argumentation" approach provides a fantastic, solid basis by which to learn grammar and leave readers with a very thorough understanding of it. The problem with this approach is that if one does not read the book in its entirety, they will be left in many ways worse off than they would have been with a different book. One will slowly learn method and the reasoning behind such a structure as the incredibly simple "everything is a daughter of S and sister to eachother" approach before immediately abandoning it in the next chapter when a problem presents itself. Chapter by chapter previous approaches are skillfully and concisely explained leaving the reader with a thorough grasp on why theory has moved the direction it has. Yet with each chapter one's previous understanding is dashed to pieces creating a cycle of critical thinking and reanalysis, beautifully mirroring both the history and the processes involved in generative syntactic theory. In the end, the conclusion comes about rather abruptly as well, making the cumulative approach anticlimactic. The book would greatly benefit from a "further reading recommendations" list or even a solid couple of pages of summary, instead of the preexisting two short paragraphs.
First and foremost, this book is an excellent introduction to logic of argumentation, yet with a framing in syntax. You will learn syntax, learn it well, and learn it clearly. Just make sure your reading is a complete one since it is a bit too easy to wander off the path early and arrive at the wrong conclusion....more
Thorough and encompassing summary of the language issues involved in one of the most interesting language reforms in history. One issue I found was thThorough and encompassing summary of the language issues involved in one of the most interesting language reforms in history. One issue I found was the nostalgic tinge Lewis takes on near the end when he begins to lament to the "better times" and loss of certain features; a perspective I'd consider a bit short-sighted for someone woh studies language change at all. Some basic understanding of Turkish (and Arabic, as well) would be preferable when approaching this book but is entirely unnecessary....more