Lillo, Antonio. Transcribing English: The Nuts and Bolts of Phonemic Transcription. Granada: Comares, 2009. ISBN: 978-84-9836-492-7. 248 pp.
This fascinating new book, published by Comares in the acclaimed English
Language Series, examines the transcription of English by focusing not only on the purely phonological and phonetic aspects of each vowel and consonant, but also on its spelling patterns, including unusual and one-off spellings. While the book is no substitute for a pronunciation course, it provides the minimum coverage of phonetics and phonology required to understand phonemic transcription. It supplements an English pronunciation course by dealing with the transcription of highfrequency words that are somehow troublesome to the foreign student, especially due to the awkward (though certainly not unsystematic) relationship between sound and spelling.
The book consists of four chapters. Chapter 1 introduces some of the main concepts of phonetics and English phonology, such as the difference between phonetic and phonemic transcription and the distinction between rhotic and non-rhotic accents. Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the transcription of vowels and consonants respectively, and both include a number of practice tests on each category of phonemes (most of them zeroing in on tricky phonemic contrasts), on features of connected speech (like elision and epenthesis) and on the use of the strong and weak forms of structural words. Finally, Chapter 4 concentrates on how to stress words in isolation and in the stream of speech. Besides providing practice at word and sentence level, this chapter also contains ten passages designed to develop students’ skills in transcribing longer stretches of discourse. The Answer Key at the end of the book provides the correct answers to the questions and exercises, as well as suggested model transcriptions for the passages in Chapter 4. This is followed by a brief Reference section listing the sources cited throughout the book and some suggestions for further reading and reference.
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