The Sound Pattern of English

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MIT Press, 1991 - Architecture - 470 pages
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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.

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About the author (1991)

Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. Son of a Russian emigrant who was a Hebrew scholar, Chomsky was exposed at a young age to the study of language and principles of grammar. During the 1940s, he began developing socialist political leanings through his encounters with the New York Jewish intellectual community. Chomsky received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. He conducted much of his research at Harvard University. In 1955, he began teaching at MIT, eventually holding the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language and Linguistics. Today Chomsky is highly regarded as both one of America's most prominent linguists and most notorious social critics and political activists. His academic reputation began with the publication of Syntactic Structures in 1957. Within a decade, he became known as an outspoken intellectual opponent of the Vietnam War. Chomsky has written many books on the links between language, human creativity, and intelligence, including Language and Mind (1967) and Knowledge of Language: Its Nature, Origin, and Use (1985). He also has written dozens of political analyses, including Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), Chronicles of Dissent (1992), and The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many (1993).

Morris Halle is Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics Emeritus at MIT.

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