Phonetics - Unit One - Lesson No. 2

Branches of Phonetics

There are three main areas of phonetics: articulatory phonetics , acoustic phonetics and auditory phonetics.

Articulatory phonetics

Articulatory phonetics deals with the way in which speech sounds are produced. Sounds are usually classified according to the position of the lips and the tongue, how far open the mouth is, whether or not the vocal cords are vibrating.

Acoustic phonetics

Acoustic phonetics deal with the transmission of speech sounds through the air. When a speech sound is produced, it causes minor air disturbances called sound waves.

Auditory phonetics

Auditory phonetics (also perceptual phonetics) deals with how speech sounds are perceived by the listener. For example, a listener may perceive:

  1. differences in aspiration e.g. between the aspirated /p/ of [phit] pit and the unaspirated /p/ of [tip] tip
  2. other differences in sound quality, e.g. between the "clear" /l/ of [lait] light and the dark /ɫ/ of hill /hɪɫ/ (Longman, under "phonetics").

Other areas of phonetics include anthropophonetics, linguistic phonetics, physiological phonetics, impressionistic phonetics and instrumental phonetics.

Anthropophonetics (or general phonetics) considers the total range of speech sounds producible by the human vocal apparatus, independently of any real or possible linguistic use; linguistic phonetics examines the speech sounds occurring in particular languages generally.

Phoneticians have long used various mechanical devices in their investigations; today they more commonly use a battery of electronic instruments backed up by computers, and most phonetics today is therefore instrumental phonetics.

Phonetics was substantially developed by the ancient Indians and by the medieval Arabs, but the modern tradition began in the sixteenth century in England and it was in nineteenth-and-twentieth century Britain that such figures as Alexander Melville Bell, Henry Sweet and Daniel Jones chiefly created modern phonetics, though most of the instrumental techniques are far more recent. Phonetics lies at the heart of dialectology and it overlaps with phonology.

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