A handbook of phonetics.

A handbook of phonetics. By Luciano Canepari. (LINCOM textbooks in linguistics 10.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2005. Pp. 502. ISBN 3895864803. $209.72 (Hb).

Reviewed by Jason Brown, University of British Columbia

A handbook of phonetics was originally written in Italian and translated into English and is the companion volume to A handbook of pronunciation, also authored by Canepari. The book introduces the phonetic method of natural phonetics, which involves articulatory, auditory, and functional aspects. The work is a full system of descriptive phonetics, especially for means of teaching and learning pronunciation. Thus, the aims are toward a systematic method and thoroughly descriptive set of phonetic symbols and visual components that are designed to help a learner develop phonetic kinesthesia and accurate pronunciation.

The book can be broken down into two main parts: a general part, and a series of phonetic descriptions of various languages. The first fourteen chapters deal with issues concerning phonetics and the learning of pronunciation. A description of all of the segmental sounds of speech, the suprasegmental sounds (including tone and intonation), and paralinguistic phenomena is provided. The book deals with approximately one thousand segmental sounds, and each is described in detail with regard to place of articulation, manner of articulation, and so on. Many visual devices are introduced in order to aid in phonetic description and pronunciation, such as vocograms, labiograms, orograms, palatograms, and tonograms. The book provides a detailed criticism of the official International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and offers the alternative, extended version of the IPA, referred to as CANIPA. In general, the goal of using CANIPA is to achieve greater accuracy with respect to teaching and learning a given pronunciation, but also with respect to the description of languages. Such accuracy is the stimulus for the second part of the book, which is based on actual recordings of each language as analyzed by the author.

The second part of the book, Chs. 15–23, gives a brief overview of the phonetics, or ‘phonosyntheses’, of various languages. The languages covered in these chapters are classed geographically (and not necessarily genetically). In concordance with the original Italian version of the handbook, sixty-three Italian dialects are described first, followed by languages from Europe (79), Africa (25), Asia (58), Oceania (6), and America (31). There are also phonosyntheses of seventy-two dead languages, devised through internal reconstruction and the sound files of existing daughter languages, and one extraterrestrial language (considered as a potential interlanguage). Each phonosynthesis consists of a description of the segmental inventory of each language, a brief intonational inventory, and notable differences from related languages or dialects. Also provided is a utilizable bibliography at the end of the book.

Overall, the book offers a systematic method (and alphabet) for transcribing and describing speech sounds, as well as a series of descriptions of the sounds of many languages. While natural phonetics involves more symbols and more descriptive rigor than other phonetic methods, it has been designed for the maximal amount of accuracy attainable, both for the sake of language description, and with the learner of pronunciation in mind. It is in this way that the author has produced a comprehensive system of descriptive standards, as well as provided a set of language descriptions based on this method.