Since this classic work in phonology was published in 1968, there has been no other book that gives as broad a view of the subject, combining generally applicable theoretical contributions with analysis of the details of a single language. The theoretical issues raised in The Sound Pattern of English continue to be critical to current phonology, and in many instances the solutions proposed by Chomsky and Halle have yet to be improved upon.
An Essay on Stress presents a universal theory for the characterization of the stress patterns of words and phrases encountered in the languages of the world. The heart of the theory is constituted by the formal mechanism for characterizing "action at a distance", which is a special case of the formalism needed for the construction of constituent structure.
This work attempts to describes the ultimate discrete components of language, their specific structure, and their articulatory, acoustic, and perceptual correlates, and surveys their utilization in the language of the world. First published in 1951, this edition contains an added paper on Tenseness and Laxness.
"Any adequate psychology of man must provide some way to understand the human capacity for language," the editors of this volume write. "It was a belief shared by quite a few among us that developments in linguistics and psychology were leading to similar conclusions by separate routes and that this was an appropriate time to explore the implications of these apparently parallel developments for future, perhaps joint, work. This volume represents a few initial steps in the direction of that goal."