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Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone = sound/voice) is the study of sounds (voice). It is concerned with the actual properties of speech sounds (phones) as well as those of non-speech sounds, and their production, audition and perception, as opposed to phonology, which operates at the level of sound systems and abstract sound units (such as phonemes and distinctive features). Phonetics deals with the sounds themselves rather than the contexts in which they are used in languages. Discussions of meaning (semantics) therefore do not enter at this level of linguistic analysis.

While writing systems and alphabets are in many cases closely related to the sounds of speech, strictly speaking, phoneticians are more concerned with the sounds of speech than the symbols used to represent them. So close is the relationship between them however, that many dictionaries list the study of the symbols (more accurately semiotics) as a part of phonetic studies. On the other hand, logographic writing systems typically give much less phonetic information, but the information is not necessarily non-existent. For instance, in Chinese characters, a phonetic refers to the portion of the character that hints at its pronunciation, while the radical refers to the portion that serves as a semantic hint. Characters featuring the same phonetic typically have similar pronunciations, but by no means are the pronunciations predictably determined by the phonetic due to the fact that pronunciations diverged over many centuries while the characters remained the same. Not all Chinese characters are radical-phonetic compounds, but a good majority of them are.

Phonetics has three main branches:

  • articulatory phonetics, concerned with the positions and movements of the lips, tongue, vocal tract and folds and other speech organs in producing speech
  • acoustic phonetics, concerned with the properties of the sound waves and how they are received by the inner ear
  • auditory phonetics, concerned with speech perception, principally how the brain forms perceptual representations of the input it receives.

There are over a hundred different phones recognized as distinctive by the International Phonetic Association (IPA) and transcribed in their International Phonetic Alphabet.

Phonetics was studied as early as 2500 years ago in ancient India, with Pāṇini's account of the place and manner of articulation of consonants in his cerca fifth-century BCE treatise of Sanskrit. Nearly all Indian alphabets today order their consonants according to Pāṇini's classification.

Phonetics and phonologyEdit

In contrast to phonetics, phonology is the study of language-specific systems and patterns of sound and gesture, relating such concerns with other levels and aspects of language. While phonology is grounded in phonetics, it has emerged as a distinct area of linguistics, dealing with abstract systems of sounds and gestural units (e.g, phoneme, features, mora, etc.) and their variants (e.g., allophones), the distinctive properties (features) which form the basis of meaningful contrast between these units, and their classification into natural classes based on shared behavior and phonological processes. Phonetics tends to deal more with the physical properties of sounds and the physiological aspects of speech production and perception. It deals less with how sounds are patterned to encode meaning in language (though overlap in theorizing, research and clinical applications are possible).

See alsoEdit


External links and referencesEdit

BibliographyEdit

  • Catford, J. C. (1977). Fundamental problems in phonetics. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32520-X.
  • Clark, John; & Yallop, Colin. (1995). An introduction to phonetics and phonology (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19452-5.
  • Hardcastle, William J.; & Laver, John (Eds.). (1997). The handbook of phonetic sciences. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-6311-8848-7.
  • Ladefoged, Peter. (1982). A course in phonetics (2nd ed.). London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Ladefoged, Peter. (2003). Phonetic data analysis: An introduction to fieldwork and instrumental techniques. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23269-9 (hbk); ISBN 0-631-23270-2 (pbk).
  • Ladefoged, Peter; & Maddieson, Ian. (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-19814-8 (hbk); ISBN 0-631-19815-6 (pbk).
  • Maddieson, Ian. (1984). Patterns of sounds. Cambridge studies in speech science and communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pike, Kenneth L. (1943). Phonetics: A critical analysis of phonetic theory and a technic for the practical description of sounds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Pisoni, David B.; & Remez, Robert E. (Eds.). (2004). The handbook of speech perception. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-6312-2927-2.
  • Rogers, Henry. (2000). The Sounds of Language: An Introduction to Phonetics. Harlow, Essex: Pearson. ISBN 0-582-38182-7.
  • Stevens, Kenneth N. (1998). Acoustic phonetics. Current studies in linguistics (No. 30). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-2621-9404-X.
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