Phonetics is the study of the sounds made in the production of human languages. (This is different from the study of how sounds are represented in writing, which is called phonology. That’s chapter four.) This chapter goes over the details of how the mouth, tongue and other parts of the anatomy function to create the sounds that make up speech. This was pretty interesting to read, but difficult to do while out in public. (I took the book with me when I went for breakfast.) Mouthing the differences in the way ‘f’ and ‘v’ or ’s’ and ‘z’ are pronounced, over and over again, makes you look a little weird. To assist with this study, phoneticians have developed a phonetic alphabet that represents the actual sounds of human language. I had to download the font for this alphabet onto my computer, but had a little trouble getting it to work completely. I am amazed at all the little details that go into the formulation of the spoken word. I’m glad that all of this comes naturally to most people, because I think that very few people could actually learn all of it, if they had to learn it in a classroom. No wonder “foreigners” have accents.
Inventory of Sounds Lots of different sounds exist for making speech, much more than are represented by the typical alphabet (or at least the English alphabet).
- Voicing - vibrating vocal cords or not (s/z, th/th, f/v, etc.)
- Place of Articulation - back/middle/front (of mouth)
- Manner of Articulation - stops (p, b, etc.) / fricatives (s, z, etc.)
- Clicks / Flaps / Trills
- Height and Frontness
- Other Features: Tenseness, Rounding, Length, Nasalization, Tone