Introduction to Linguistics
  14.12.06 Phonetics

14. 12. 2006 Phonetics – Realising Sounds

Phonetics – The world of speech sounds


  • Words, stems, etc are signs

The conceptual world

When I say the word „Apple Pie“ I produce the sounds (Phonology) /^pl pai/ and if I write it down you can read the letters a-p-p-l-e- -p-i-e (Orthography). When I say the word I have a special definition of the word „apple pie“ ( probably a pie made out of apples) or a model ( maybe of an apple pie I made before) in my head. Of course I could also look at the internal and external word structure. „Apple Pie“ is a compound made out of two nouns. But this all happens in my mind.

The real world

A real apple pie might look completely different than the model I had in my head or the definition I thought of.

What you can also see in the real world are the utterances of my pronunciation which is then called phonetics.


  • Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning 'sound, voice') is the study of sounds and the human 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 is the study 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. ( 20.12.2006)

Speech transmission – Acoustic Phonetics

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In this graphic you can see the different domains of phonetics which are articulatory phonetics, acoustic phonetics and auditory phonetics  


The Articulatory Domain

  • The IPA (A = Alphabet / Association)

  • The Source-Filter Model of Speech Production

The Acoustic Domain

  • The Speech Wave-Form

  • Basic Speech Signal Parameters

  • The Time Domain: the Speech Wave-Form

  • The Frequency Domain: simple & complex signals

Fourier Analysis: the Spectrum

Pitch extraction

  • Analog-to-Digital (A/D) Conversion

The Auditory Domain

  • Anatomy of the Ear


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( source:



What Praat can do :

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( source: )


Acoustic phonetics requires special equipment

  • Now acoustic phonetics can be done on a laptop or desktop PC
  • install software
  • Audacity
  • Praat
  • WaveSurfer
  • Transcriber


Learner's diary

Today's lecture was about acoustic and auditory phonetics.

Acoustic phonetics is the transmission of speech sounds. What you hear is not the actual sound that was produced because there are many filters, as the pharyngeal filter, the nasal and the oral filter.

You can make speech sounds visible by using praat software. In today's lecture Prof. Gibbon explained how to use this software and its advantages.

In the second half of today's lecture we talked about the perception of speech sounds and therefore we mainly spoke about the different parts and the function of the ear.

In the ear, the outer ear works as a kind of microphone, the middle ear as a amplifier and the inner ear as a spectral transform.

I think Praat is a quite interesting software, but only when you can use it yourself ( which is quite impossible to organise for so many students in one "Hörsaal"). It was quite easy to use when I tried it at home especially because I already have some experiences with "Audacity". 


Auditory Phonetics

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Articulatory phonetics tasks

Take a look at the model on the Interactive Sagittal Section

website and

  • practice with it to get used to the different combinatons of active and passive articulators

  • pronounce all the sounds you form with the website, observing the movements of your articulatory organs

t the lips are spread, the tounge is pressed against the alveolar

f the lower lip is pressed agains the upper teeth, tounge is not used

v same position as f but voiced


  • Download the Praat software on to your computer:

  • install it

  • read an audio file

  • experiment with the software

  • consult the help files

  • Take a look at models of the ear: summarise the functions of the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear

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( my version of the word "tiger") you can see that vowels are louder as consonants.

Outer Ear

  • microphone

  • pinna, ear canal, surface of ear drum

  • The outer ear is the most external portion of the ear.

  • The outer ear includes the pinna (also called auricle), the ear canal, and the very most superficial layer of the ear drum (also called the tympanic membrane).

  • In humans, and almost all vertebrates, the only visible portion of the ear is the outer ear.

  • The complicated design of the human outer ear does help capture sound, but the most important functional aspect of the human outer ear is the ear canal itself. Unless the canal is open, hearing will be dampened. Ear wax (medical name - cerumen) is produced by glands in the skin of the outer portion of the ear canal. This outer ear canal skin is applied to cartilage; the thinner skin of the deep canal lies on the bone of the skull. Only the thicker cerumen-producing ear canal skin has hairs. The outer ear ends at the most superficial layer of the tympanic membrane. The tympanic membrane is commonly called the ear drum.

  • The pinna helps direct sound through the ear canal to the tympanic membrane (eardrum). In some animals with mobile pinnae (like the horse), each pinna can be aimed independently to better receive the sound. For these animals, the pinnae help localize the direction of the sound source. Human beings localize sound within the central nervous system, by comparing loudness from each ear in brain circuits that are connected to both ears.

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