The Sounds, Forms, and Uses of Italian: An Introduction to Italian Linguistics


235 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8338-2
DDC 450




Susannah D. Ketchum, a former teacher-librarian at the Bishop Strachan
School in Toronto, serves on the Southern Ontario Library Services


“A language is the voice of a people, the vocal medium through which
the individual members of a culture can express their feelings and
thoughts ... The scientific discipline that aims to study this
‘voice,’ in all its dimensions is linguistics.” The Sounds, Forms,
and Uses of Italian provides, among other things, a historical outline
of the Italian language and an explanation of the major components of
linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse, and
variation). The text is supplemented by a bare-bones Italian-English
glossary and a glossary of technical terms (the latter could have been
more extensive).

The authors are both much published and have been “instructors of an
introductory course in Italian linguistics for nearly three decades.”
They hope that their book can be used for “self-study” by all
students of Italian and, indeed, by students in programs of “general
or Romance linguistics.” To this end, they conclude each chapter with
a set of follow-up activities. However, students trying to use the book
on their own would have found these activities far more useful had the
authors provided an answer key for those questions that involve the
application of linguistic analytical methods. Consider trying to analyze
sentences, “as best you can,” when, for example, a passive sentence
is formalized as NP2 + essere V[past] + /da/ NP1.

The book should have received more rigorous editing. In addition to a
number of typographical errors, the definitions for “addressee” and
“addresser” have been reversed in the glossary of technical terms.
As well, a diagram of the “phonatory organs” is fuzzy and fails to
label a number of the sections referred to later in the text. Finally,
since the authors make extensive use of the international phonetic
alphabet, a table defining, in one place, all the phonetic symbols would
have been helpful, as would a similar table detailing the symbols used
in sentence analysis.

Despite the above criticisms, students of Italian linguistics will find
this book a welcome resource. Recommended.


Clivio, Gianrenzo P., and Marcel Danesi., “The Sounds, Forms, and Uses of Italian: An Introduction to Italian Linguistics,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,