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Book Review: Basics in Pronunciation

Basics in Pronunciation is a practical book for teaching American English p


ronunciation written by Linda Lane and was published in 1997 by Addison Wesley L
ongman. It is intended to intermediate level learners of American English pronun
ciation.
The book consists of forty units. The sequence of units is well organized.
The first part consists of six units which are concerned with giving the reader
a general overview about the main aspects in pronunciation like "The Phonetic Al
phabet", "Letter Names of the Regular Alphabet", "Overview of the Vowels", "Over
view of the Consonants", "Syllables and Stress" and "Rhythm and Intonation". The
first part enables an intermediate average learner of pronunciation to have a g
eneral understanding of those aspects as well as awareness of what is inside the
mouth and how different positions of the mouth produce different sounds. Also,
this part prepares the learners for what they are going to study in the followin
g part.
The second part examines speech sounds individually and provides instructio
ns for pronouncing them correctly, like to make /l/, touch the tip of your tongu
e just behind the top teeth. Also, the second part provides basic stress rules f
or suffixes, nouns, verbs and compound nouns. Moreover, it defines 'rhythm' and
'thought groups' in a simple and clear way that an average learner can understa
nd. For 'intonation', the author just introduces rising and falling intonation a
nd provides very simple explanations. She did not use words like 'pitch'.
Each unit is followed by a practice exercise. The exercises are varied and
appropriate for intermediate-level learners. For part one, which is concerned wi
th speech sounds, most of the exercises follow the same format and are based on
listening. In other words, the learner needs to listen to a group of words or so
unds and practice saying them. Also, there are other types of exercises like 'he
aring differences' in which the leaner listens and circles what he/she hears; e.
g. arrive/alive, list/wrist, lay/ray or 'meaning differences' in which, dependin
g on the context, the listener determines whether it is; for example, He races c
ows or He raises cows. The exercises help learners practice saying the words for
several times and differentiate between similar sounds. Another interesting typ
e of exercise is the 'Mouth Shapes' one in which learners have different words a
nd three-lip pictures, in one of them the lip is slightly spread as in "her", ro
unded as in "or" or open as in "are". Learners categorize each word with the pic
ture that represents the sound. In addition, there are some games like Bingo and
interviews in the exercise section. This exercise helps the learner to imagine
how the lips should look like when pronouncing specific sounds especially when t
here is not a model available that a learner can imitate. For the second part, s
tress, rhythm and intonation, the exercises included are dialogues and interview
s in which learners practice saying rhythm patterns, stress and falling and risi
ng intonation.
The book is concise, simple and easy to understand. For example, in the ver
y beginning, when introducing consonants, the author divides them into two group
s; "the familiar consonant symbols" like /b/ and "different consonant symbols" l
ike /3/, in this way, she makes it easier for learners to be familiar with them.
Also, the author offers clear charts that provide the characteristics of conson
ants and vowels. For the vowels, she provided a chart that illustrates when the
sounds take place in the mouth- front, central or back- and classified them as h
igh, mid and low as well as tense and lax which means relaxed. Following the cha
rt, a learner can understand that /I/ in pit is a high, lax, front vowel. Moreov
er, some pictures that visualize how some sounds can be pronounced like /p/ with
closed lips are provided. Another chart shows where all the consonants are pron
ounced in the mouth and whether they are voiced or voiceless and what happens to
the air flow.
The outstanding features of Basics in Pronunciation are the following: (a)
it uses an easy language; there are no technical terms related to the field of p
ronunciation that an average learner might not understand; (b) it can be used as
a self-study material without the need for an instructor because every section
that needs practice is marked with a 'headphones' sign so that learners can prac
tice by listening to the audiocassettes; (c) provides visuals so that learners c
an understand the pronunciation of a sound without the need for a model; and (d)
offers a range of simple, engaging and fun activities.
Although, the textbook provides clear and concise explanations and instruct
ions for both segmentals and superasegmentals, it does not show the errors that
most learners make when pronouncing speech sounds or when using intonation, rhyt
hm and stress; and accordingly no tips for correcting such errors are provided.
Another shortcoming is that there are no warm-ups. That is, the topic is only in
troduced and then followed by practice exercises. Students engage in the exercis
es before they practice the point being taught. This book is a good resource as
supplementary material or as self-study material.