Phonetics And Phonology Essay Help

For other uses, see Phonetic (disambiguation).

Phonetics (pronounced ) is a branch of linguistics that studies the sounds of humanspeech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign.[1] It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs (phones): their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory perception, and neurophysiological status. Phonology, on the other hand, is concerned with the abstract, grammatical characterization of systems of sounds or signs.

In the case of oral languages, phonetics has three basic areas of study:


Phonetics was studied by 4th century BCE, and possibly as early as the 6th century BCE, in the Indian subcontinent, with Pāṇini's account of the place and manner of articulation of consonants in his treatise on Sanskrit. The major Indic alphabets today order their consonants according to Pāṇini's classification.

Modern phonetics begins with attempts—such as those of Joshua Steele (in Prosodia Rationalis, 1779) and Alexander Melville Bell (in Visible Speech, 1867)—to introduce systems of precise notation for speech sounds.[3][4]

The study of phonetics grew quickly in the late 19th century partly due to the invention of the phonograph, which allowed the speech signal to be recorded. Phoneticians were able to replay the speech signal several times and apply acoustic filters to the signal. By doing so, they were able to more carefully deduce the acoustic nature of the speech signal.

Using an Edison phonograph, Ludimar Hermann investigated the spectral properties of vowels and consonants. It was in these papers that the term formant was first introduced. Hermann also played vowel recordings made with the Edison phonograph at different speeds in order to test Willis', and Wheatstone's theories of vowel production.

Relation to phonology[edit]

In contrast to phonetics, phonology is the study of how sounds and gestures pattern in and across languages, relating such concerns with other levels and aspects of language. Phonetics deals with the articulatory and acoustic properties of speech sounds, how they are produced, and how they are perceived. As part of this investigation, phoneticians may concern themselves with the physical properties of meaningful sound contrasts or the social meaning encoded in the speech signal (socio-phonetics) (e.g. gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc.). However, a substantial portion of research in phonetics is not concerned with the meaningful elements in the speech signal.

While it is widely agreed that phonology is grounded in phonetics, phonology is a distinct branch of linguistics, concerned with sounds and gestures as abstract units (e.g., distinctive features, phonemes, morae, syllables, etc.) and their conditioned variation (via, e.g., allophonic rules, constraints, or derivational rules).[5] Phonology relates to phonetics via the set of distinctive features, which map the abstract representations of speech units to articulatory gestures, acoustic signals or perceptual representations.[6][7][8]


Phonetics as a research discipline has three main branches:[9]

  • Articulatory phonetics is concerned with the articulation of speech: The position, shape, and movement of articulators or speech organs, such as the lips, tongue, and vocal folds.
  • Acoustic phonetics is concerned with acoustics of speech: The spectro-temporal properties of the sound waves produced by speech, such as their frequency, amplitude, and harmonic structure.
  • Auditory phonetics is concerned with speech perception: the perception, categorization, and recognition of speech sounds and the role of the auditory system and the brain in the same.


Main article: Phonetic transcription

Phonetic transcription is a system for transcribing sounds that occur in a language, whether oral or sign. The most widely known system of phonetic transcription, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), provides a standardized set of symbols for oral phones.[10][11] The standardized nature of the IPA enables its users to transcribe accurately and consistently the phones of different languages, dialects, and idiolects.[10][12][13] The IPA is a useful tool not only for the study of phonetics, but also for language teaching, professional acting, and speech pathology.[12]


Applications of phonetics include:

  • Forensic phonetics: the use of phonetics (the science of speech) for forensic (legal) purposes.
  • Speech recognition: the analysis and transcription of recorded speech by a computer system.
  • Speech synthesis: the production of human speech by a computer system.
  • Pronunciation: to learn actual pronunciation of words of various languages.

Practical phonetic training[edit]

Studying phonetics involves not only learning theoretical material but also undergoing training in the production and perception of speech sounds.[14] The latter is often known as ear-training. Students must learn control of articulatory variables and develop their ability to recognize fine differences between different vowels and consonants.[15][16] As part of the training, they must become expert in using phonetic symbols, usually those of the International Phonetic Alphabet.[17]

See also[edit]



  • O'Grady, William; et al. (2005). Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction (5th ed.). Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-41936-8. 
  • Stearns, Peter; Adas, Michael; Schwartz, Stuart; Gilbert, Marc Jason (2001). World Civilizations (3rd ed.). New York: Longman. ISBN 0-321-04479-7. 

External links[edit]

  1. ^O'Grady (2005) p.15
  2. ^R. L. Trask (1996) A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 34.
  3. ^T.V.F. Brogan: English Versification, 1570–1980. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981. E394.
  4. ^Alexander Melville Bell 1819-1905 . University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
  5. ^Kingston, John. 2007. The Phonetics-Phonology Interface, in The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology (ed. Paul DeLacy), Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^Halle, Morris. 1983. On Distinctive Features and their articulatory implementation, Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, p. 91 - 105
  7. ^Jakobson, Roman, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. 1976. Preliminaries to Speech Analysis: The Distinctive Features and their Correlates, MIT Press.
  8. ^Hall, T. Allen. 2001. Phonological representations and phonetic implementation of distinctive features, Mouton de Gruyter.
  9. ^O'Connor, J.D. (1973). Phonetics. Pelican. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0140215601. 
  10. ^ abO'Grady (2005) p.17
  11. ^International Phonetic Association (1999) Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press.
  12. ^ abLadefoged, Peter (1975) A Course in Phonetics. Orlando: Harcourt Brace. 5th ed. Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth 2006.
  13. ^Ladefoged, Peter & Ian Maddieson (1996) The Sounds of the World’s Languages. Oxford: Blackwell.
  14. ^Jones, Daniel (1948). "The London school of phonetics". Zeitschrift für Phonetik 11 (3/4): 127-135. (Reprinted in W. E. Jones and J. Laver, Phonetics in Linguistics, Longman, 1973, pp. 180–186.)
  15. ^J. C. Catford: A Practical Introduction to Phonetics (2001). Oxford University Press, 2nd ed., p. 1. ISBN 0-19-924635-1
  16. ^Abercrombie, D. (1967). Elements of General Phonetics. Edinburgh. p. 155
  17. ^Peter Roach

Phonetics and phonology

Phonetics: In order to produce sound humans use various body parts including the lips, tongue, teeth, pharynx and lungs. Phonetics is the term for the description and classification of speech sounds, particularly how sounds are produced, transmitted and received. A phoneme is the smallest unit in the sound system of a language; for example, the t sound in the word top.

Various phonetic alphabets have been developed to represent the speech sounds in writing through the use of symbols. Some of these symbols are identical to the Roman letters used in many language alphabets; for example: p and b. Other symbols are based on the Greek alphabet, such as θ to represent the th- sound in thin and thought. Still others have been specially invented; e.g. ð for the th- sound in the and then. The most widely used phonetic script is the International Phonetic Alphabet. There is an excellent article on this in Wikipedia.

Phonology: Phonology is the term used for the study of the speech sounds used in a particular language. The distinctive accents that many learners of English have are due to differences between the phonological system of their language and that of English. From birth, and possibly before, we learn to recognize and produce the distinctive sounds of our own language. We do not need to give any thought to how to have the lips, tongue, teeth, etc. working together to produce the desired sounds. The physical structures of parts of the sound system are adapted to produce native-language sounds.

English has some speech sounds (phonemes) that do not exist in other languages. It is no surprise, therefore, that native speakers of those languages have difficulties producing or even perceiving such sounds. This is particularly true for speakers from language families other than the Germanic one to which English belongs.

Note: It is assumed that most visitors to these pages will not know phonetic script. Consequently, phonological difficulties will be made clear by reference to common English words or syllables, and not by the use of phonetic symbols. For example, the problems that Germans have with some English words are shown as follows:

English word
Faulty German pronunciation

The faulty pronunciations shown in this way are approximations. German pronunciation of the English word bad may tend towards the way a native English speaker would say bet. A native speaker however would normally say the word bet with a harder, more strongly articulated final t sound (alveolar plosive) than a German mispronouncing the word bad.

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