This book presents thirteen papers from the 5th Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia (PaPI) conference in June 2011 in Tarragona, Spain. These papers were selected because they ‘showcase… the thematic and methodological richness of the work presented at the 2011 meeting…that goes beyond the Romance realm’ (vii) and because they ‘represent a multifaceted cross section of current work on the phonetics-phonology interface’ (xix). The majority of the papers focus on Romance languages, but many will nonetheless be of interest to phoneticians and laboratory phonologists working on other languages. The volume includes papers from leading experts in the field as well as junior scientists and is intended for experienced researchers.
The thirteen papers are organized into four parts and are preceded by the editors’ introduction, which gives a critical overview of the past and current state of research and frames the following chapters in a very detailed and useful way. In particular, the editors highlight how the papers address the book’s ‘goal of deepening our understanding of the phonetics-phonology interface’ (xix) and suggest broader implications that are not always apparent in the individual papers.
The first part is on ‘First and second language acquisition’ and opens with a review chapter by Catherine T. Best entitled ‘Devil or angel in the details? Perceiving phonetic variation as information [End Page 247] about phonological structure’. The author reviews earlier research in which variation was typically viewed as noise that needs to be factored out in order to unveil the abstract phonological structure; she then convincingly argues in favor of the role of phonetic variation in the acquisition of phonological structure. Best draws upon growing evidence suggesting that language learners of all ages benefit from variation in production and thus in perception when shaping their first and second language (L2) phonologies.
With their study on ‘Effects of Spanish use on the production of Catalan vowels by early Spanish-Catalan bilinguals’, Joan Carles Mora, James L. Keidel, and James E. Flege contribute to two issues in L2 research, namely language dominance and age of bilingualism. They show that production of and exposure to Catalan and Spanish shape the ways in which the Catalan mid-vowel contrasts are maintained or merged—potentially leading to a change. Variation is again mentioned as an important factor but is not addressed directly in the otherwise careful acoustic analysis.
In ‘Cues to dialectal discrimination in early infancy: A look at prosodic, rhythmic and segmental properties in utterances from two Catalan dialects’, Marta Ortega-Llebaria and Laura Bosch compare durational (i.e. rhythmic) measures with the distribution of vowels in unstressed syllables, which differs in the two dialects. The aim was to disentangle possible acoustic effects that may have helped five-month-olds in a previous pilot study to discriminate eastern from western Catalan dialects. The findings point to vocalic rather than rhythmic differences. The paper might have made reference to the wealth of literature that is critical of rhythmic measures (as, for example, addressed by Nava and Goldstein in this volume) and that has demonstrated the difficulty of grouping languages (and even more so dialects) according to simple rhythm typologies (e.g. Grabe & Low 2002, Arvaniti 2009). Given that many dialects differ foremost in vocalic features (e.g. English varieties), it is indeed worthwhile to further investigate the extent to which young infants pick up on these cues.
In ‘Phonology versus phonetics in loanword adaptations: A reassessment of English vowels in French’, Sharon Peperkamp investigates French listeners’ perception of American English vowels presented within the original context (flanked by labial consonants) or in isolation. The author compares the results to on-line adaptations of French speakers to the same CVC stimuli that were obtained in a previous study. Different responses to spliced (where listeners could not compensate for coarticulatory effects) vs. unspliced vowels (where they compensated) are taken as support for loanword adaptations being guided by phonetic rather than phonemic...