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The Sound Structure of English

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  • Page extent: 242 pages
  • Size: 247 x 174 mm
  • Weight: 0.5 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521615495)

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The Sound Structure of English
Cambridge University Press
9780521850360 - The Sound Structure of English - An Introduction - By Chris McCully

The Sound Structure of English

The Sound Structure of English provides a clear introduction to English phonetics and phonology. Tailored to suit the needs of individual, one-term course modules, it assumes no prior knowledge of the subject, and presents the basic facts in a straightforward manner, making it the ideal text for beginners. Students are guided step-by-step through the main concepts and techniques of phonetic and phonological analysis, aided by concise chapter summaries, suggestions for further reading and a comprehensive glossary of all the terms introduced. Each chapter is accompanied by an engaging set of exercises and discussion questions, encouraging students to consolidate and develop their learning, and providing essential self-study material. The book is accompanied by a companion website, which helps readers to work through specified in-chapter problems, suggests answers to end-of-chapter exercises, and contains links to other sites of interest to those working on English sound-structure. Providing the essential knowledge and skills for those embarking on the study of English sounds, it is set to become the leading introduction to the field.

CHRIS McCULLY is a writer and independent scholar who teaches part-time at the Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen. His recent publications include Generative Theory and Corpus Studies (edited with Bermúdez-Otero, Denison and Hogg, 2000) and The Earliest English (with Sharon Hilles, 2005).

Cambridge Introductions to the English Language

Cambridge Introductions to the English Language is a series of accessible undergraduate textbooks on the key topics encountered in the study of the English language. Tailored to suit the needs of individual taught course modules, each book is written by an author with extensive experience of teaching the topic to undergraduates. The books assume no prior subject knowledge and present the basic facts in a clear and straightforward manner, making them ideal for beginners. They are designed to be maximally reader-friendly, with chapter summaries, glossaries and suggestions for further reading. Extensive exercises and discussion questions are included, encouraging students to consolidate and develop their learning, and providing essential homework material. A website accompanies each book, featuring solutions to the exercises and useful additional resources. Set to become the leading introductions to the field, books in this series provide the essential knowledge and skills for those embarking on English Language Studies.

Books in the series

The Sound Structure of English Chris McCully

Old English Jeremy J. Smith

The Sound Structure of English

An Introduction

Chris McCully

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Chris McCully 2009

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2009

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication dataMcCully, C. B.The sound structure of English : an introduction / Chris McCully.p. cm. – (Cambridge introductions to the English language)Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 978-0-521-85036-01. English language – Phonology. 2. English language – Phonetics. 3. English language –Phonetic transcriptions. I. Title. II. Series.PE1133.M36 2009421′.5–dc222008049136

ISBN 978-0-521-85036-0 hardback

ISBN 978-0-521-61549-5 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of figures
A note on using this book
1             Introduction
2             Consonants (1): contrastiveness
3             Consonants (2): classification
4             Consonants (3): distribution
5             Syllables (1): introduction
6             Syllables (2): constituents
7             Syllables (3): structure
8             Vowels (1): short vowels
9             Vowels (2): long vowels and diphthongs
10            Vowels (3): variation
11            Problems, theories and representations
Appendix: the IPA chart
Index of topics


1.1           The organs of speech
1.2           The oral cavity, with principal articulators
3.1           The oral cavity, with principal articulators
8.1           The general shape of the tongue
8.2           A vowel trapezium
8.3           The oral cavity and four Cardinal Vowel points
9.1           Cardinal reference points
9.2           The possible set of long vowels in Cardinal positions 1 through 8


This book wouldn’t exist had it not been for the kind and constructive comments of three anonymous readers for Cambridge University Press, who assessed the preliminary proposal(s) for the work. In that CUP context, Helen Barton has given positive and encouraging feedback at every stage of the writing process, and I am most grateful for that. I am also more than grateful for the work of Alex Bellem, CUP’s copy-editor. I would also like to thank Heinz Giegerich, of the Department of English Language, University of Edinburgh, for his influential role in helping me develop this textbook. He has throughout offered me the best kind of criticism. I would also like to thank Monika Schmid, of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, for making her graphic summaries of English vowel distribution available to me. My greatest debt, however, is to the students in Manchester, Amsterdam, Groningen and elsewhere, who have not only functioned as the recipients of some of this work, but who have also occasionally saved me from authorial errors and slips, and who for more than twenty years have endured my washing machines (vowel trapezia), chamber pots, and other dubious metaphors and analogies. Occasionally these same students even endured my singing. I don’t suppose I shall ever be forgiven. Never mind. On we go.


October 2008

A note on using this book

In what follows you’ll find a book of eleven chapters, whose contents are detailed above. Throughout each chapter I’ve set what are intended to be thought-provoking questions. Each question appears in bold font and in boxed text. Sometimes I’ve begun to answer such questions in the text that follows them, but more usually I’ve not answered them within the covers of this book. You will, however, find that such questions are useful to discuss in seminars, or even outside classes. You’ll also find a fuller set of answers in the web pages that accompany the book. You will need to open the following URL:

Similarly, at the end of each chapter you’ll find a set of more formal exercises. These are labelled e.g. exercise 1a, exercise 3d and so on. These also appear in bold font, and in text boxes. Again, I have sometimes offered commentary, but more often I’ve placed a discussion of them in the relevant web pages.

Although the book can be used as a stand-alone textbook you won’t get the best out of it unless and until you access the web pages that complement it.

You’ll also find a glossary in the apparatus which concludes the book. The glossary contains all those terms which, on their first appearance in the text, are set in bold font. In the glossary I’ve given brief (and, I hope, uncontroversial) definitions to these terms, and have also, where relevant, included a page or section reference detailing where those terms appear in this book. There’s also a full index, again in the concluding apparatus, so you shouldn’t get lost.

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