Your Voice Speaks Volumes: It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Oxford Univ. Jan. 2020. 256p. notes. ISBN 9780198813842. $25.95. COMM
The ways people speak provide easy fodder for stereotypes, whether for comedic effect or to support existing prejudices. One popular example, “uptalk” (a statement ending in a rising intonation), is a feature often misattributed to “female talk” and negatively judged as indicating a lack of confidence. Setter (phonetics, Univ. of Reading; coeditor, Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary) examines attitudes surrounding speech sounds and explains the physical and social reasons for their variations. The author arrived at her fascination with language at an early age and interwines personal experiences with academic research. After a brief, foundational introduction to the sounds of English and a short history of the English language, Setter expands the scope to topics such as accents in the media, forensic speech analysis, transgender speech, and synthesized speech. QR codes in the text link to audio and video files that support and enhance the discussion.
VERDICT Setter applies phonetic analysis to a range of aspects of daily life in a way that is approachable to a wide audience. However, the level of technical detail and geographical focus on the UK may limit the overall appeal to academic readers.

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