Sounds Appealing - David Crystal

Reading Challenge Category: Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge - A book about a topic that fascinates you

Official Blurb:

It's not what you say, it's the way that you say it ...
There have long been debates about 'correct' pronunciation in the English language, and Britain's most distinguished linguistic expert, David Crystal, is here to set the record straight. Sounds Appealing tells us exactly why, and how, we pronounce words as we do.
Pronunciation is integral to communication, and is tailored to meet the demands of the two main forces behind language: intelligibility and identity. Equipping his readers with knowledge of phonetics, linguistics and physiology - with examples ranging from Eliza Doolittle to Winston Churchill - David Crystal explores the origins of regional accents, how they are influenced by class and education, and how their peculiarities have changed over time.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book for my reading challenge category ‘a book about a topic that fascinates you’ as I love anything to do with sounds, phonetics, sound change etc. I especially like David Crystal’s take on the subject so I knew reading an entire book wouldn’t be laborious. It would also be a good starter book to get me back into studying ready for the start of my PhD next month. An excellent refresher book, get my mind working again and hopefully get some good notes out of it too.
I usually love David Crystal’s style of writing. He has a way of making any topic seem fun and easy-going. However, he didn’t have his usual panache in this book, and I found it quite hard going. There were many sections I found myself skim reading as they were quite dull. Something I do a lot of with academic books but not usually with David Crystal!
More recently, I have noticed he is very stage acting and poem orientated, and this was very apparent in this book. He was obsessed with the choice authors make in regards to character’s names. Advising that they base their choices on the way different phonemes are perceived (among many other reasons). There were lots of examples, and I felt this was a little overdone. Sometimes it wasn’t clear what his point was. I felt like he was putting examples from well-known literature in just for the sake of it rather than using samples from every-day language that would be more relatable.
There is a good overview of all the phonetic symbols and of the speech organs and how we produce sound. However, I wouldn’t recommend this book to a beginner in the subject. Even though Crystal is aiming this book at the listeners that have written to him complaining to him about the English language. I think he wanted to explain with this book the varieties of English but somehow missed the mark. It was neither an introduction to phonetics nor a history of how our language has evolved. It wasn’t a story about pronunciation but more how stories use pronunciation. Somehow losing the way from the introductory chapters on the BBC complainers. It was like the book didn’t really know what it wanted to be and didn’t stick to the purpose that it was supposed to have.
So, in summary, I was very disappointed with this latest offering from Crystal. I did make a few notes that will come in handy in the future, and I did learn a few things. I was blown away with the pronunciation of Arkansas, for example! I’ve been saying this wrong my entire life. Admittedly I’ve probably only said it about twice, but still!

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Sounds Appealing
by David Crystal
Date Started
5th September 2019
Date Finished
13th September 2019
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