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The Definition of Phonetic

The Definition of Phonetic

              Whereas syntax is about sentence formation, and semantics about sentence interpretation, phonetics and phonology cover the field of sentence utterance. Based on Forel & Puskás (2005:3) Phonetics is concerned with how sounds are produced, transmitted and perceived (we will only look at the production of sounds). Phonology is concerned with how sounds function in relation to each other in a language. In other words, phonetics is about sounds of language, phonology about sound systems of language. Phonetics is a descriptive tool necessary to the study of the phonological aspects of a language.

              Language can be written, manually signed, mechanically reproduced and even synthesized by computers with consider-able success. Nevertheless, speech remains the primary way humans express themselves through language, this long history of spoken language is reflected in our anatomical specialization for it. Humans also appear to have specialized neural mechanisms for the perception of speech sounds. Because language and speech are so closely linked, we begin our study of language by examining the inventory and structure of the sounds of speech. This branch of linguistics is called phonetics (Dobrovolsky & Katamba 1997: 16).

              There are two ways of approaching phonetics. One approach studies the physiological mechanisms of speech production. This is known as articulatory phonetics. The other, known as  acoustic phonetics, is concerned with measuring and analyzing the physical properties of the sound waves we produce when we speak. Both approaches are indispensable to an understanding of speech. This chapter focuses on articulatory phonetics, but also makes some reference to the acoustic properties of sounds and to acoustic analysis.


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