Phonetics For Dummies
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Phonetics For Dummies

William F. Katz

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eBook - ePub

Phonetics For Dummies

William F. Katz

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About This Book

The clear and easy way to get a handle on the science of speech

The science of how people produce and perceive speech, phonetics has an array of real-world applications, from helping engineers create an authentic sounding Irish or Canadian accent for a GPS voice, to assisting forensics investigators identifying the person whose voice was caught on tape, to helping a film actor make the transition to the stage. Phonetics is a required course among students of speech pathology and linguistics, and it's a popular elective among students of telecommunications and forensics. The first popular guide to this fascinating discipline, Phonetics For Dummies is an excellent overview of the field for students enrolled in introductory phonetics courses and an ideal introduction for anyone with an interest in the field.

Bonus instructional videos, video quizzes, and other content available online for download on the product page for this book.

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For Dummies
Part I
Getting Started with Phonetics
Visit for more great Dummies content online.
In this part . . .
Get the complete lowdown on what phonetics is and why so many different fields study it.
Familiarize yourself with all the human anatomy that play important role in phonetics, including the lips, tongue, larynx, and vocal folds.
Understand how the different parts of anatomy work together to produce individual consonants, vowels, syllables, and words.
Examine the different parts of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to see how phoneticians use it to transcribe spoken speech and begin to make your own transcriptions.
Identify how different speech sounds are classified and the importance of voicing (whether the vocal folds are buzzing), places of articulation (the location in your mouth where consonants are formed), and manner of articulation (how consonants are formed).
See how sounds are broken down to the most basic level (phonemes) and how they work together to form words.
Chapter 1
Understanding the A-B-Cs of Phonetics
In This Chapter
Nurturing your inner phonetician
Embracing phonetics, not fearing it
Deciding to prescribe or describe
People talk all day long and never think about it until something goes wrong. For example, a person may suddenly say something completely pointless or embarrassing. A slip of the tongue can cause words or a phrase to come out wrong. Phonetics helps you appreciate many things about how speech is produced and how speech breaks down.
This chapter serves as a jumping-off point into the world of phonetics. Here you can see that phonetics can do the following:
Provide a systematic means for transcribing speech sounds by using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
Explain how healthy speech is produced, which is especially important for understanding the problems of people with neurological disorders, such as stroke, brain tumors, or head injury, who may end up with far more involved speech difficulties.
Help language learners and teachers, particularly instructors of English as a second language, better understand the sounds of foreign languages so they can be understood.
Give actors needing to portray different varieties of English (such as American, Australian, British, Caribbean, or New Zealand) the principles of how sounds are produced and how different English accents are characterized.
This chapter serves as a quick overview to your phonetics course. Use it to get your feet wet in phonetics and phonology, the way that sounds pattern systematically in language.
Speaking the Truth about Phonetics
“The history of phonetics — going back some 2.5 millennia — makes it perhaps the oldest of the behavioral sciences and, given the longevity and applicability of some of the early findings from these times, one of the most successful”
— Professor John Ohala, University of California, Berkeley
When I tell people that I’m a phonetician, they sometimes respond by saying a what? Once in a rare while, they know what phonetics is and tell me how much they enjoyed studying it in college. These people are typically language lovers — folks who enjoy studying foreign tongues, travelling, and experiencing different cultures.
Unfortunately, some people react negatively and share their horror stories of having taken a phonetics course during college. Despite its astounding success among the behavioral sciences, phonetics has received disdain from some students because of these reasons:
A lot of specialized jargon and technical terminology: In phonetics, you need to know some biology, including names for body parts and the physiology of speech. You also need to know some physics, such as the basics of acoustics and speech waveforms. In addition, phonetics involves many social and psychological words, for example when discussing speech perception (the study of how language sounds are heard and understood) and dialectology (the study of language regional differences). Having to master all this jargon can cause some students to feel that phonetics is hard and quickly become discouraged.
Speaking and ear training skills: When studying phonetics, you must practice speaking and listening to new sounds. For anyone who already experienced second language learning (or enjoys music or singing), doing so isn’t a big deal. However, if you’re caught off guard by this expectation from the get-go, you may underestimate the amount and type of work involved.
The stigma of being a phonetician: Phoneticians and linguists are often unfairly viewed as nit-picking types who enjoy bossing people around by telling them how to talk. With this kind of role model, working on phonetics can sometimes seems about as exciting as ironing or watching water boil.
I beg to differ with these reasons. Yes, phonetics does have a lot of technical terms, but hang in there and take the time to figure out what they mean because it will be worth your time. With phonetics, consider listening and speaking the different sounds as a fun activity. Working in the field of phonetics is actually an enjoyable and exciting one. Refer to the later section, “Finding Phonetic Solutions to the Problems of the World” and see what impact phonetics has in everyday speech.
Prescribing and Describing: A Modern Balance
This idea that linguists (those who study language) and...

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