Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

An area with study groups for various languages. Group members help each other, share resources and experience. Study groups are permanent but the members rotate and change.
User avatar
jonm
Orange Belt
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:06 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Languages: Native: English
Advanced: Spanish
Intermediate: French, Italian, Portuguese
Beginner: Catalan, Latin, German
Dabbling: Greek, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit, Japanese
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9402
x 608

Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Sat Aug 22, 2020 6:13 am

Wondering if folks would be interested in a thread devoted to reading and discussing J.C. Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics.

I highly recommend the book to anyone who'd like to better understand the sounds of speech. It's clear and engaging, and it's a model of how to teach through direct experience. Here's how Catford puts it in the book's preface:

Readers are introduced to the phonetic classification of the sounds of speech by means of a series of simple introspective experiments carried out inside their own vocal tracts, their own throats and mouths. By actually making sounds (very often silently) and attending to the muscular sensations that accompany their production one can discover how they are produced and learn how to describe and classify them.

At first sight 'making sounds silently' may appear contradictory, but, as Abercrombie (1967) has aptly pointed out, speech is 'audible gesture' and the principal aim of this book is to enable the reader to discover and to analyse the gestural aspect of speech (upon which most phonetic classification is based) and to bring it under conscious control.

I find phonetics fascinating and fun and a huge help in learning languages. You develop a familiarity with the vocal tract and a precise understanding of how to shape it to produce different sounds and how those "audible gestures" transition one into the next.

One benefit is not having to rely on vague descriptions like "this sound is somewhere in between English b and v." You can instead use precise phonetic terminology and IPA symbols, and after a while it takes little effort to know what they represent. And sometimes you can skip terms and symbols completely and just hear new sounds and have a good sense of what's happening in the vocal tract to produce them.

If there's interest, here are a couple possibilities for how the thread could work. One is, we could have a reading group and go through the book together at a certain pace. Perhaps a chapter a week? At that pace, we would finish in about two and a half months. Or, if there isn't so much interest in coordinating things that way, the thread could just remain open, and anyone reading the book at any time could ask questions here.

The book is designed for self-study, so a thread like this is by no means necessary. But it can be helpful to read along with others and be able to ask questions and clarify things.

And this is very much open to everyone. If you're totally new to phonetics, I really think this book is a great way to start.

And I also wholeheartedly encourage other phonetics buffs on the forum to participate. The thread would definitely benefit from your knowledge and experience, and it would be good to have multiple perspectives on things. And I think this book is great for folks who've already studied phonetics too. I've read it a couple times already, and I expect I would still learn a lot from a reread.

Incidentally (since if I was considering participating in something like this, I would want to know), my background is three years of grad school in linguistics. I finished the coursework for an MA, including three phonetics classes, and my thesis is also focused on phonetics, but I still haven't finished the thesis, and I don't know if I will. I would say I have a good knowledge of phonetics, but I didn't end up pursuing a career in it, and I'm not an expert. But hopefully I and other forum members who know about phonetics could help clarify anything that might come up.

Anyway, I highly recommend the book and would be happy to read it as a group if there's interest or else to leave the thread open to any questions about it. And very open to any other ideas on how the thread could be most helpful.

Oh, and you can preview the book here on Amazon. That's the second edition, which has updates to the "further reading" section and to some of the figures. Other than that, I think the two editions are quite close, so either could be used.
15 x

addylad
White Belt
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:55 pm
Languages: English (N), French (B1?)
x 40

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby addylad » Sat Aug 22, 2020 3:16 pm

I bought this book many months ago and I've only skimmed the introduction since! I don't know if I have the time to keep a set pace, but it would be useful to discuss its contents here.
1 x

blackcoffee
White Belt
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 6:51 pm
Languages: English (N)
Latin
Spanish (beginner)
x 55

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Sat Aug 22, 2020 8:41 pm

This sounds really interesting! I have wished for a long time that I could remember IPA or even know for sure exactly what sound was being represented. Even when I hear a sound I'm not sure of it moments later.

I've added the book to my amazon cart, but am telling myself that I must finish a few other books before ordering more.
1 x

User avatar
lavengro
Blue Belt
Posts: 541
Joined: Wed May 24, 2017 1:39 am
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Languages: ENGLISH (N); FRENCH (A2 - conservatively self-estimated); SPANISH (A1 - recklessly self-asserted); ITALIAN (non parlo italiano - yet); ITHKUIL (only in my nightmares); GERMAN (ich bin ein Anfänger - currently A0); JAPANESE (against my better judgment - barely A0); GÀIDHLIG? (A-nis tha mi brònach); LANG BELTA? (Walowda ámolof fo kowl beltalowda); start FINNISH? (maybe ...).
x 1210

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby lavengro » Sat Aug 22, 2020 9:40 pm

This does sound interesting jonm. Based on comments you made about this book in a different thread, I ordered a copy last week, but because copies available in Canada run between $85 to $112 (though recently generously discounted to a paltry $56 bucks), I ordered a much less expensive used copy from the UK, which appears to have been put on one of their slowest boats and I may not be getting it until closer to October.

blackcoffee wrote:This sounds really interesting! I have wished for a long time that I could remember IPA or even know for sure exactly what sound was being represented. Even when I hear a sound I'm not sure of it moments later.

In case you may be interested, there is a Memrise course on the IPA last week which I started working through last week which has audio and which looks to have 500+ data elements, so I am assuming it includes the full slate of squiggles. https://app.memrise.com/course/239573/learn-the-ipa-phonetic-alphabet/
7 x
"Blaming a bridge collapse on a school is like blaming owls for why I suck at analogies."
- Britta Perry, of course.

User avatar
jonm
Orange Belt
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:06 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Languages: Native: English
Advanced: Spanish
Intermediate: French, Italian, Portuguese
Beginner: Catalan, Latin, German
Dabbling: Greek, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit, Japanese
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9402
x 608

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Sun Aug 23, 2020 3:48 am

Thanks for the interest, addylad, blackcoffee, and lavengro!

So let's definitely open up the thread to questions and comments as they arise. If you're reading the book at your own pace, please feel free to post here any time, whether you're wondering about something or just feel like checking in about how it's going. Questions and discussion about phonetics that aren't directly related to the book are also welcome.

And then it's totally understandable that it could be a couple weeks or more before folks get a hold of the book. Not a problem at all. For the reading group option, we can just leave it open as a possibility and wait and see what would work best for people when they get their copies.

By the way, another place to look for the book is AbeBooks.

addylad wrote:I bought this book many months ago and I've only skimmed the introduction since! I don't know if I have the time to keep a set pace, but it would be useful to discuss its contents here.

Sounds great! I'm very happy to help with anything. And I'll just say by way of encouragement that the first page after the introduction is where you get the first guided experiment, and I honestly find them really fun. :)

blackcoffee wrote:This sounds really interesting! I have wished for a long time that I could remember IPA or even know for sure exactly what sound was being represented. Even when I hear a sound I'm not sure of it moments later.

I've added the book to my amazon cart, but am telling myself that I must finish a few other books before ordering more.

One thing I like about the book's approach is that you start with the "audible gestures" themselves. You try out a certain configuration of the mouth and throat and learn not only what sound you make that way but also what it feels like to make it, what the physical sensations are. Then you can learn the technical term for that audible gesture and the IPA symbol that represents it, and it's grounded in that physical experience. That can make it easier to remember terms and symbols and also easier to identify and distinguish sounds. Sort of analogous to how vocabulary gets easier to remember when you use it in real-life situations.

lavengro wrote:This does sound interesting jonm. Based on comments you made about this book in a different thread, I ordered a copy last week, but because copies available in Canada run between $85 to $112 (though recently generously discounted to a paltry $56 bucks), I ordered a much less expensive used copy from the UK, which appears to have been put on one of their slowest boats and I may not be getting it until closer to October.

Yikes, those are crazy prices. That's great you've got the book on the way! And definitely no rush, no doubt things are shipping slower than usual these days.

In case you may be interested, there is a Memrise course on the IPA last week which I started working through last week which has audio and which looks to have 500+ data elements, so I am assuming it includes the full slate of squiggles. https://app.memrise.com/course/239573/learn-the-ipa-phonetic-alphabet/

That Memrise course sounds fun. As I said above, it could be helpful to be able to associate terms and symbols with the physical sensation of making different audible gestures. But that still leaves a lot of squiggles to memorize :lol: (some of which are way more common than others), and this sounds like a good way to do it. Let me know if I can help with anything!
5 x

annelions
White Belt
Posts: 42
Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2020 12:31 am
Languages: English (N), Spanish (A1), German (A1), Italian (A1), Croatian (Beginner)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=15851
x 68

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby annelions » Thu Aug 27, 2020 12:52 pm

blackcoffee wrote:This sounds really interesting! I have wished for a long time that I could remember IPA or even know for sure exactly what sound was being represented. Even when I hear a sound I'm not sure of it moments later.


Same. I think my biggest problem with IPA is that explanations I've seen thus far are generally explained by way of example words in English and in such a way that I'm not sure that the person doing the explaining is aware that different accents even exist. I can't recall which off the top of my head, but I remember being particularly annoyed by certain vowels and th sounds that sound identical in my everyday speech.

Since this textbook seems to take a different tack, it looks much more useful. I can't order it right now but I do hope to order it in the future.
4 x
Spanish
: 1 / 17 ModernStates
: 2 / 16 Forge
: 0 / 100 Busuu
Croatian
: 0 / 18 Teach Yourself
: 1 / 38 Mondly
German
: 0 / 100 Assimil
: 1 / 64 Lingodeer

User avatar
Deinonysus
Blue Belt
Posts: 733
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Salem, MA, USA
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Intermediate: French,
   German, Spanish
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Indonesian,
   Hebrew
x 2178

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Aug 27, 2020 6:11 pm

I'm in! I just ordered my copy.

I just realized that although I have a couple of conlanging books that deal with phonology and at least three books on the phonology of specific languages (English, Ancient Hebrew, and !Xóõ), I have never actually read an academic book on general phonology.
1 x
العربية
: 12 / 19 FSI Levantine Arabic Phonology
: 61 / 230 Duolingo Arabic
: 9 / 77 Assimil L'arabe
: 1 / 6 Ahlan wa Sahlan Workbook

blackcoffee
White Belt
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 6:51 pm
Languages: English (N)
Latin
Spanish (beginner)
x 55

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:46 pm

I ordered a copy today too. :)
1 x

User avatar
jonm
Orange Belt
Posts: 197
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:06 pm
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Languages: Native: English
Advanced: Spanish
Intermediate: French, Italian, Portuguese
Beginner: Catalan, Latin, German
Dabbling: Greek, Persian, Hindi, Sanskrit, Japanese
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=9402
x 608

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Fri Aug 28, 2020 1:25 pm

So glad this is coming together!

Deinonysus wrote:I'm in! I just ordered my copy.

I just realized that although I have a couple of conlanging books that deal with phonology and at least three books on the phonology of specific languages (English, Ancient Hebrew, and !Xóõ), I have never actually read an academic book on general phonology.

I was hoping you'd be interested, and I'm really happy to hear that you are! Hope you like the book as much I do. I can say that for me, it's helped tie together and reinforce things I learned from other sources. And the discussion will really benefit from your insights and all the knowledge and experience you can bring. By the way, I'm looking at the Wikipedia page for !Xóõ, and wow, that is a truly awe-inspiring phonemic inventory... At once daunting and intriguing...

blackcoffee wrote:I ordered a copy today too. :)

Wonderful! By the way, I've enjoyed reading in your log about your experiences with Spanish and Listening-Reading. And you mentioned there that you're a high school teacher. I sincerely hope the school year gets off to a good start under incredibly demanding circumstances.

And just want to say for everyone, we can keep this flexible and adapt to how much time people have. :)

And annelions, you raise some really interesting points. Just gonna try and collect my thoughts and will follow up soon!
3 x

blackcoffee
White Belt
Posts: 17
Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 6:51 pm
Languages: English (N)
Latin
Spanish (beginner)
x 55

Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Sat Aug 29, 2020 10:35 am

jonm wrote:
blackcoffee wrote:I ordered a copy today too. :)

Wonderful! By the way, I've enjoyed reading in your log about your experiences with Spanish and Listening-Reading. And you mentioned there that you're a high school teacher. I sincerely hope the school year gets off to a good start under incredibly demanding circumstances.

Thanks! A big part of my justification for ordering the book was to develop better methods for learning students' names. I don't have a consistent shorthand for making notes about how they pronounce their names, and then I'm not sure later what my scratches were supposed to mean. :lol:

I've long had trouble with Asian names. I think I just don't hear certain sound/tone distinctions, and so I end up with an awkward back and forth. . . . I try to pronounce a person's name, and they keep repeating it, so I know I'm not getting it right, but I just don't hear the difference, let alone know how to make the proper sound. I wonder if I could learn the proper physical way to generate the sounds such that I could make the correct sound even if I still couldn't hear the difference. I don't encounter too many Asian names these days, but it's interesting to think about.
3 x


Return to “Study Groups”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests