414: The Music of Everyday Speech by Ann Wennerstrom

by Gerard


414.6: Wennerstrom, Ann. The Music of Everyday Speech: Prosody and Discourse. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 263 pp. ISBN 0-19-514321-3.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 400: Language
  • 410: Linguistics
  • 414: Phonology and phonetics of standard forms of language
  • 414.6: Suprasegmental features

Ann Wennerstrom’s premise is a simple one: you need to properly hear a language to understand it. Languages have a tone, a pitch, and a musicality that is crucial to its analysis. This musicality is called a language’s prosody. Don’t worry if you’re already feeling drowned in technical jargon. Wennerstrom’s Music of Everyday Speech does a decent (if not terrific) job of helping the lay person understand her particular brand of linguistic analysis. She uses stress charts, vocal recordings, and scientific analysis to get at the heart of our language. Because the book is written in English, her results are limited to the English language, but it is interesting nonetheless. Her findings help support her theory that prosody helps to organize language almost as much as grammatical rules. She also brings in other contributors to help break up any potential monotony. One of these contributors (Heidi Riggenbach) takes a look at a person’s efforts in a second language and how their prosody is affected by their fluency in the language. This one’s a fairly dense that could easily get too tedious/boring for the average reader. I recommend it only if you’re in the field.