This book, which is primarily aimed at Scandinavian learners of English, has a great deal to offer to any learner of English as a foreign language, whatever his mother tongue. In the first two chapters, the consonants and vowels of RP are carefully and clearly described, and in succeeding chapters most of the important suprasegmental features are dealt with in the same way. The author's exposition is always lucid, and for the foreign learner the book reads straightforwardly, concentrating on important matters and leaving aside relatively uninimportant things — avoiding what the author calls "unrealistically minute distinctions". There is thus a proper degree of selection, so that the learner may understand what features of spoken English should be his chief concern. This is a sensible and practical approach to "comfortable intelligibility" which no doubt has its origins in the author's own experience of teaching English pronunciation to Scandinavian learners.
Two chapters are particularly worth attention. Chapter 4 on Gradation provides a full discussion of weak forms, with good examples and with advice about their use. The material is persuasively presented, and the recommendations are acceptable and easy to follow for a learner who wants to use conversational English and to avoid misunderstandings or over-formality.
Chapter 6 on Intonation is perhaps the best in the book. In some ways the handling of intonation problems may be taken as a test of the competence and usefulness of any book on English pronunciation; this book stands up well to such an examinatioin. Stress is laid on the relative simplicity of the intonation system of English in comparison with its segmental and grammatical systems, in order to inspire some confidence in the learner and to diminish the dread of this supposedly difficult area, which is so often left unfortunately late in the teaching programme. It is not to be regarded as the last, most difficult obstacle to fluency, the final impossible hazard lying in wait for the learner. Here the intonation system of RP is presented in terms of five basic tones: high-rise, high-fall, low-rise, low-fall and level; utterances are described in terms of nucleus, tail head and prehead. This is familiar ground to anyone who has read HAROLD PALMER, for instance, or O'CONNOR and ARNOLD; but well-chosen examples and a very full set of exercises serve to support the author's view that intonation should not present an impossible task to a learner who is prepared to practise.
There is some discussion of the "meanings" or "effects" of utterances using the various tones. This is one of the most difficult aspects of English intonation for a learner to understand and assimilate — so much of it is highly subjective, relating as it does to the total linguistic impact of an utterance on a native listener. The use of such terms as "emotive" aand "unemotive" to describe some of these effects is an indication of the problems of interpretation the learner has to deal with.
A very good section in this chapter (as in most chapters in the book) is concerned with special problems of Scandinavian learners. These detailed comments, which include descriptions of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish features, cannot fail to be immediately useful to the learners they are written for. Discussions of Scandinavian difficulties at various points in the book, however, do not interfere with the development of its argument or detract from its value to the non-Scandinavian learner; most of the topics dealt with are presented in general foreign-learner terms.
There is a short comment on differences between British and American intonation patterns. It is not extensive enough to fill the need expressed by a reviewer of ROGER KINGDON'S Groundwork of English Intonation, for a detailed description of the similarities and differences between these two. In most of the chapters some consideration is given to American pronunciation insofar as they show differences from RP. But there is no insistence on one or other as the more desirable model; either is acceptable, if used consistently. This typifies the author's non-dogmatic approach, evident also in the modesty of his title.
The author, taking the view that the learner should be able to handle a variety of transcriptions, describes and exemplifies some of the transcription systems used by other authors. His own system is rather similar to the one in EPD, but closest to the one used by Gimson in his Introduction to the Pronunciation of English; we note his use of /oː/ where the Introduction has /uː/ (as in /fjuː/) in order to avoid a particular Scandinavian difficulty.
A good deal of thought has gone into the making of the diagrams. They are very well done, and supplement the exposition excellently. They stand out as one of the most characteristic features of the book. By a careful selection of specially shaped marks on the traditional vowel figure they manage to carry a great deal of information, and often provide a convenient summary of material discussed at length elsewhere. They support the text and add something to it.
The last two chapters provide intonation reading practice and passages for reading and transcription. The intonation exercises are particularly good; detailed and thorough, they successfully go over the ground covered in the intonation chapter. Anyone who can work through these exercises accurately may feel confident that he has a good grasp of the essentials of English intonation.
It will be seen from the points made in this review that this Guide follows a well-established tradition. The author acknowledges his debt to DANIEL JONES and A. C. GIMSON; it is apparent on every page. Linguistically inclined readers will look in vain for a discussion of relationships between intonation and syntax, or (more generally) between intonation and grammar in the Hallidayan fashion; spoken English is presented as a self-sufficient system of segmental and suprasegmental features, capable of being taught to foreign learners. This Guide has the particular aim of improving Scandinavian pronunciation of English; properly used it should achieve its aim. For its range of information, for its clarity, and for its good sense, it is to be recommended.