What is Phonetics?

What is Phonetics?

Phonetics is the scientific study of sounds. There are three branches of phonetics that are studied:

  1. Articulatory Phonetics: the study of how sounds are produced in the mouth.
  2. Acoustic Phonetics: the study of wave-patterns and formants using computer technology.
  3. Auditory Phonetics: the study of sound perception.

In this course, we'll focus on articulatory phonetics so you understand how sounds are produced, where they are, and how to transcribe English words into an alphabet for sounds.

Articulatory Phonetics

Articulatory phonetics studies how sounds are produced in the mouth. Every sound uses a few articulators:

  • the vocal folds for vibration
  • the oral cavity for sounds that come out of the mouth
  • the nasal cavity for sounds that come out of the nose
  • articulators in the mouth to shape the sounds

We'll learn how each of these parts works independently to create contrasting sounds like [t] and [d].

We often refer to a mid-sagittal diagram of the mouth to learn places of articulation. This image shows all of the parts of the mouth that are involved in speech articulation.

We'll learn about all of these in different lessons and what sounds those articulators produce!

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