Three edited volumes

Three newly released edited volumes caught my eye on LINGUIST List (here, here, and here), and I thought I’d mention them together in one post. Hey, they’re not completely unrelated, right?


Variation and Gradience in Phonetics and Phonology, ed. by Frank Kügler, Caroline Féry, and Ruben van de Vijver, Phonetics and Phonology 14, Mouton de Gruyter, 2009.

This book provides an overview of current issues in variation and gradience in phonetics, phonology and sociolinguistics. It contributes to the growing interest in gradience and variation in theoretical phonology by combing research on the factors underlying variability and systematic quantitative results with theoretical phonological considerations. Variation is inherent to language, and one of the aims of phonological theory is to describe and explain the mechanisms underlying variation at every level of phonological representation. Variation below the segment concerns articulatory, acoustic and perceptual cues that contribute to the formation of natural classes of sounds. At the segmental level there are grammatical differences in the production and perception of contextual variation of segments and in the syntagmatic constraints on the combination of segments. At the suprasegmental level the mapping of tones to grammatical functions and vice versa is discussed. Further aspects addressed in this book are factors outside of language: Variation that arises as a result of a particular dialect or of belonging to a certain age group, or variation that is the consequence of language change.

Gradience and variation have always been a central issue in phonetic and sociolinguistic research. Gradience introduces variation in phonology as well. If a phonetic entity can be pronounced in different ways, depending on the environment, prosodic factors or dialectal influences, this ‘gradience’ may introduce ‘variation’, which we understand as a stable state of grammar.


Phonology in Perception, ed. by Paul Boersma and Silke Hamann, Phonology and Phonetics 15, Mouton de Gruyter, 2009.

The book consists of nine chapters dealing with the interaction of speech perception and phonology. Rather than accepting the common assumption that perceptual considerations influence phonological behaviour, the book aims to investigate the reverse direction of causation, namely the extent to which phonological knowledge guides the speech perception process.

Most of the chapters discuss formalizations of the speech perception process that involve ranked phonological constraints. Theoretical frameworks argued for are Natural Phonology, Optimality Theory, and the Neigbourhood Activation Model. The book discusses the perception of segments, stress, and intonation in the fields of loanword adaptation, second language acquisition, and sound change.

The book is of interest to phonologists, phoneticians and psycholinguists working on the phonetics-phonology interface, and to everybody who is interested in the idea that phonology is not production alone.


Loan Phonology, ed. by Andrea Calabrese and W. Leo Wetzels, Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 307, John Benjamins, 2009.

For many different reasons, speakers borrow words from other languages to fill gaps in their own lexical inventory. The past ten years have been characterized by a great interest among phonologists in the issue of how the nativization of loanwords occurs. The general feeling is that loanword nativization provides a direct window for observing how acoustic cues are categorized in terms of the distinctive features relevant to the L1 phonological system as well as for studying L1 phonological processes in action and thus to the true synchronic phonology of L1. The collection of essays presented in this volume provides an overview of the complex issues phonologists face when investigating this phenomenon and, more generally, the ways in which unfamiliar sounds and sound sequences are adapted to converge with the native language’s sound pattern. This book is of interest to theoretical phonologists as well as to linguists interested in language contact phenomena.

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