Is Phonology Empirical?

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Originally published in Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books, 1979, Vol 24(2), 120–121. Reviews the book, Foundations of Theoretical Phonology by James Foley (1977). This book is a proposal for a theory of the sound structure of human language. Since the 1950s, there has been a strong tendency to view linguistic theory as a theory of linguistic competence, the knowledge a speaker/hearer has of his or her language. The best idea in the book, and indeed a central theme, is that a linguistic theory should be based on linguistic universals. Foley agrees that linguistic theory establishes a universal framework for the description of individual languages. The general nature of this framework can only be studied by examining particular languages. The only linguistic properties Foley discusses are phonological rules. Foley proposes other scales for processes other than the stop to fricative, grouping some rules together under broad headings of various types. The theory of phonology is in the form of a set of universal rules. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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