I’ve finally got round to reading Luciano Canepari’s book on English pronunciation, Pronuncia inglese per italiani (2009, 2nd edition; Aracne). The book is aimed at Italian students of EFL and claims to contain
“tutto ciò che serve sapere sulla pronuncia dell’inglese d’oggi, per ottenere buoni risultati nel capire i nativi e farsi capire da loro”.
(‘all the information you need to know about contemporary English pronunciation. After reading this book, Italians will be able to understand native speakers and make themselves understood’.)
H’m. What an ambitious goal!
IMHO, the book is a very feeble attempt at describing the pronunciation of current English. First of all, the author doesn’t focus on any particular variety but illustrates the features of a type of English he calls “pronuncia internazionale” (‘international pronunciation’) (p.14), that is
“una parziale semplificazione, che fonde assieme le caratteristiche americane e britanniche, liberandole dalle peculiarità più strane. Quindi, non è nulla di artificiale, né senza un solido fondamento; anzi, è la sublimazione del meglio”.
(‘a partial simplification and a mixture of British and American English pronunciations but without their strange or unusual characteristics. This is no artificial model. On the contrary, it is the sublimation of the best’.)
I just wonder how this kind of ‘model’ can help students of EFL understand native speakers if it is a variety nowhere to be heard on this planet! But anyway...
Another characteristic of this book is the use of phonetic symbols which are not approved by the IPA and which Canepari has invented himself. (As my readers will know, Canepari has developed a phonetic transcription system called canIPA, an extended version of the IPA consisting of 500 basic, 300 complementary, and 200 supplementary symbols. This is because, in his view, the IPA is defective as it doesn’t permit a detailed transcription of the sounds of the world’s languages.) Look, for instance, at the following transcription of The North Wind and the Sun (p.76). Notice how ridiculously complicated and cumbersome it looks:
I very much doubt this kind of phonetic transcription will make things easier for non-native speakers of English!
On pages 141-144, Canepari deals with another variety of English pronunciation which he terms “pronuncia mediatica” (‘the pronunciation used on British and American television and radio’). This type of accent is only briefly sketched and, in the author’s opinion, is all too complicated to be taught.
In the same section, for the first time, Canepari uses expressions like “preglottalizzazione” (‘pre-glottalization’) and “vocalizzazione” (‘vocalization’), but he refuses to mention glottalling probably because he regards it as a ‘negative’ phenomenon which doesn’t deserve to be reported on.
It is also curious to note that, on page 187, he criticises John Wells’s LPD 3 for providing a kind of General American pronunciation which “sconfina nel mediatico” (‘is too typical of American television and radio’). Too typical? What does that mean? I just cannot imagine what other type of pronunciation Professor Wells ought to have included in his dictionary! Also, what is the boundary between General American and the pronunciation one hears on television and radio in the US?
(If you want to know more about Canepari and his ‘phonetic method’, take a look at his website here.)