The Sound Pattern of English
Since this classic work in phonology was published in 1968, there has been no other book that gives as broad a view of the subject, combining generally applicable theoretical contributions with analysis of the details of a single language. The theoretical issues raised in The Sound Pattern of English continue to be critical to current phonology, and in many instances the solutions proposed by Chomsky and Halle have yet to be improved upon.Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle are Institute Professors of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT.
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First of all, I'd like to say that I have no background in linguistics. My review is not representative of a specialist in this field. This book (hereafter SPE) is not only a broadly ranging work in the field of linguistics. It also demonstrates, step by step, the process whereby Chomsky arrived at his conclusions. As such, it is a sprawling book. While a masterpiece in linguistics, this is not a useful textbook for a student merely wishing to learn a brief summary of his results. I found it easy to become confused by whether what I was reading was a conclusion, or just part of the process or reaching a conclusion.
The notation system used requires much practice to get used to. I found sticking to an English language summary of rules simpler. Having said, there are only vague references to key conclusions, making summarizing key rules quite difficult.
While truly a classic, the only authors I have found less accessible would be Buckminster Fuller and M. McLuhan.
I imagine SPE will remain one of most cited but least read books in linguistics.