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Peter Roach, Oxford Introduction to Language Study: Phonetics

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2001
Andy Arleo
p. 101-102
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Peter Roach. Oxford Introduction to Language Study: Phonetics. Oxford University Press, 2001, 116p. £ 7.90

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  • 1 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 (3rd edition).

1As explained by series editor H.G. Widdowson in the preface, the purpose of the Oxford Introduction to Language Study “is not to supplant but to support the more academically oriented introductions to linguistics: to prepare the conceptual ground. They are based on the belief that it is an advantage to have a broad map of the terrain sketched out before one considers its more specific features on a smaller scale...” (vii). Peter Roach, professor of phonetics at the University of Reading and author of the well-known English Phonetics and Phonology1, provides an excellent illustration of this sound pedagogical principle in this brief well-written introduction to phonetics.

2The book is divided into four sections: Survey, Reading, References and Glossary. The survey consists of ten short chapters that review the basics of phonetics: the science of speech, making speech sounds, classifying speech sounds, tone and tone languages, suprasegmentals, acoustics of speech sounds, sounds in systems, connected speech and coarticulation, variation and conclusion. The clear and concise explanations are supplemented by charts and diagrams. I would make the following suggestion for a future edition: Table 1.2, a chart of the International Phonetic Alphabet, might be placed at the end of the book for easier reference.

3It is refreshing in an introductory text that the author also points out areas of current research and controversy. I found the discussion of connected speech and coarticulation particularly stimulating. Roach also criticizes some of the biases of past research. Noting that it is likely that a majority of the world’s population speaks a tone language, he finds it “surprising how little importance is given to this aspect of speech in books on phonetics. Perhaps this shows that the subject is dominated by speakers of European languages” (25). He also observes that speakers recorded in laboratory studies have often been recruited among the students or staff of a university, who hardly represent “normal” speakers (67).

4The survey is followed by 21 short readings, each of which is followed by several thought-provoking questions or exercises. For self-study, it would have been helpful to provide an answer key. Perhaps this could be put on the publisher’s website. The annotated references are classified into three categories: introductory, more advanced and specialized. This is an invaluable and up-to-date guide to further study that will be useful even for readers with a background in the subject. Finally, the glossary gives short reader-friendly definitions and refers to the relevant pages of the survey section. In a future edition it would be useful to provide a phonetic transcription of these specialized terms, whose pronunciation is sometimes problematic (e.g. alveolar).

5Potential readers of this book include language students who are beginning a course on general phonetics or on the phonetics and phonology of a specific language as well as language teachers who teach phonetics or who wish to review the basic concepts of the subject. It will also be useful for non-native speakers of English who have studied phonetics in their own language and need basic terminology before further study with more advanced texts in English. Finally, in view of the widespread misconceptions about language, books like this render a service to the discipline by educating the general public about how we talk.

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1 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 (3rd edition).

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Référence papier

Andy Arleo, « Peter Roach, Oxford Introduction to Language Study: Phonetics », Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité, Vol. XXI N° 4 | 2002, 101-102.

Référence électronique

Andy Arleo, « Peter Roach, Oxford Introduction to Language Study: Phonetics », Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité [En ligne], Vol. XXI N° 4 | 2002, mis en ligne le 28 décembre 2014, consulté le 23 février 2018. URL :

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Andy Arleo

IUT de Saint-Nazaire

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