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An Introduction to English Phonology

April McMahon

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An Introduction to English Phonology introduces undergraduates to the basic tools and concepts necessary for the outline description of English phonological systems and processes. By working through the book and the various exercises included, students should come to understand the need for a dedicated system of description and transcription for speech sounds, and for a degree of phonological abstraction. They should learn to carry out elementary, broad phonetic transcription, and be able to establish contrastive vowel and consonant systems for their own varieties and to express simple generalisations reflecting the productive and predictable patterns of English sounds.

  • designed for a one-term or one-semester introductory course in English Language
  • suitable for both native and non-native speakers of English
  • emphasis on varieties of modern English around the world
  • an essentially theory-neutral approach, with the concepts central to the practice of phonology clearly explained


1. Sounds, spellings and symbols
2. The phoneme: the same but different
3. Describing English consonants
4. Defining distributions: consonant allophones
5. Criteria for contrast: the phoneme system
6. Describing vowels
7. Vowel phonemes
8. Variation across accents
9. Syllables
10. The word and above.

About the Author

April McMahon is Head of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. She has research interests in phonological theory and in the history and varieties of English, and her previous books include Understanding Language Change, Lexical Phonology and the History of English and Change, Chance, and Optimality.

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