English for Medical Science

At the end of last week I received a copy of the book you can see to the left. It is L’inglese medico-scientifico: pronuncia e comprensione all’ascolto (English for medical science: pronunciation and listening comprehension). The author is Alessandro Rotatori, a long-time friend of this blog. It is published by EdiSES (ISBN 978-88-7959-8507, xviii,162pp.). It has a foreword in English by Jack Windsor Lewis. It is available from the publisher at a cost of €15.00.

In his foreword JWL says that it is a remarkable book. I agree with this opinion wholeheartedly, and for more than one reason. First, the book uses modern information technology to splendid effect. There are many internet links to useful websites, such as blogs and on-line exercises. The book has a dedicated web page on the publisher’s website which contains downloadable sound files for many of the example utterances in the book. The recordings are in mp3 format and are very professionally done.

Secondly, the book is very well produced with a clear font, helpful layout and good diagrams. Phonetic transcriptions are shown in bold. The phonemic symbol set is that used in John Wells’s Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, with the exception of the vowel in care, fair, there and the like. The symbol ɛː is used instead of Wells’s . The attention of the reader is directed to important points and to examples with sound clips by panels with a grey back ground. The sound clip examples are also indicated by a numbered headphone icon.

Finally, the coverage of the book is impressive and the information given to learners is clear, accurate, and up-to-date, both for General British and General American varieties. The main text is divided into five chapters:

  1. Introduction: The chapter presents some basic concepts, such as the spelling ~ pronunciation dichotomy, the phonemic principle, accent variation and also has a useful section on pronunciation dictionaries and their use. It concludes with a list of recommended websites where the student can find further information of a phonetic nature.
  2. Consonant sounds: The basic voice, place, manner classification of consonants is presented with numerous examples and sound clips. The chapter also deals admirably with allophonic variation, such as aspiration, devoicing, velarisation and the like, and in passing alerts the learner to the pitfalls of English orthography such as silent consonants. There are plenty of exercises and acivities to reinforce the message.
  3. Vowel sounds: This chapter, in addition to detailing the basic vowel system of GB and GA, deals with pre-fortis clipping, compression and smoothing, and provides numerous recorded examples and useful exercises.
  4. Accentuation and connected speech features: A long chapter dealing with lexical stress, accentuation of compounds, stress shift, tonic placement, weak forms, elision, and assimilation. There is also a useful section on the pronunciation of acronyms and abbreviations. Again there are plenty of examples and exercises.
  5. Intonation: Intonation is treated in a simple and effective way in this chapter, using an inventory of three nuclear tone categories: fall, rise, and fall-rise.


The book ends with a section giving answers to the exercises, a short bibliography and an index. Although the material used as examples is targeted at Italian professionals in the health-care sector, where increasingly the medium of communication at conferences and the like is English, it strikes me that the book presents such a succinct and useful survey of modern GB and GA pronunciation that it would be extremely useful to a more general audience of Italian learners of English.

So well done, Alex. Congratulations and welcome back to the blogosphere.

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