Applying Phonetics
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Applying Phonetics

Speech Science in Everyday Life

Murray J. Munro

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eBook - ePub

Applying Phonetics

Speech Science in Everyday Life

Murray J. Munro

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About This Book

A unique and accessible introduction to the field of phonetics through real-life applications and practical examples

The dynamic field of phonetics, the science of the structure and function of human speech, has seen exciting technological innovations and new applications in recent years. Applying Phonetics introduces students to the field through a unique exploratory approach that highlights practical applications and focuses on the diverse ways in which the speech sciences influence daily life. Requiring no prior knowledge of linguistics, this accessible, student-friendly textbook introduces the key concepts in phonetics and explains their relevance to contemporary applications. Even students who have completed introductory linguistics courses will discover plenty of new material in this volume.

Rather than immediately delving into complex theoretical information, the text presents a brief overview of basic concepts and then uses applications—speech synthesis, forensic speech science, language teaching—to explain the details. This unique approach increases student interest and comprehension, clearly demonstrating how speech science is beneficial to society. Engaging, easily-relatable topics include speech anatomy and physiology, the nature of normal and disordered speech development, the origins of speech, and speech applications in forensics, music, drama, film, and business. Written by a respected expert with over 25 years' experience teaching linguistics and phonetics, this textbook

  • Explores the wide-ranging applications of phonetics areas such as accessibility, computer speech, education, the fine arts, and business
  • Demonstrates how practical problems have been addressed through phonetics, such as the use of speech analysis for forensic purposes
  • Presents real-life case studies that illustrate fundamental phonetics concepts
  • Includes exercises and activities, discussion questions, an extensive glossary, further readings, and a companion website

Applying Phonetics: Speech Science in Everyday Life is an ideal text for undergraduate students with no prior knowledge of linguistics, as well as those needing to expand their knowledge of phonetic principles. It will appeal to students in education, computer science, cognitive science, biology, psychology, business, and music.

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Part I
What Is Speech?

Introducing Phonetics : The Science of Speech

Speech is the most fundamental means of human communication. Nearly all of us—with the exception of the profoundly deaf and people with severe cognitive dysfunction—begin learning to speak during the early stages of childhood and continue to use spoken language as a mode of interaction. It is mainly through speech that we establish and develop our most important personal attachments, acquire the cultural competence that allows us to function as members of society, and pass on our wisdom to our offspring.
An especially fascinating aspect of speech is that it appears to be a uniquely human capability. Other social animals engage with their communities in a variety of ways, and we humans often talk affectionately to our canine and feline companions. But non‐human animals don't use anything quite like speech with one another; nor do they carry on spoken interactions with us. The importance of speech as a social tool and its status as a defining characteristic of humanness have made phonetics a dynamic and fruitful area of study since ancient times. In fact, the phonetician John Ohala (2006) suggests that phonetics may be the oldest of the behavioral sciences and, in many respects, one of the most successful. Its value is evident in the wide range of useful things we can do because of speech‐related research and technological innovations. You might not think of the telephone, for instance, as a product of phonetics, but its invention has revolutionized our lives because Alexander Graham Bell devoted his life to the study of speech. Even more impressive are today's artificial talking agents, which can read web pages aloud for people with visual disabilities and provide a voice to those who, like the late Stephen Hawking, have lost the ability to speak. The reverse situation is also becoming a practical reality in the form of computer applications that accept speech input and follow instructions to help us complete daily tasks. It is less well known to the public that criminal investigations sometimes employ forensic phonetics during the collection of evidence leading to the conviction of offenders. On the medical front, advances in the study of speech anatomy and physiology have led to effective remediation for many types of vocal tract injuries, language delays, and speech disorders. And with respect to language preservation and revitalization, linguists are able to apply phonetic principles along with speech technology to systematically document the sound patterns of endangered languages.

1.1 speech, language, and communication

1.1.1 classifying communication types

When phoneticians talk about speech, they mean the component of language conveyed by sound. Speech is rooted in human biology in that it is produced through the centrally mediated (i.e., managed by the brain) activity of the vocal tract. Of course, many animals can make non‐speech sounds, so to understand what makes speech special, we need to consider its relation to other communication types. Figure 1.1 shows some of the ways that different types of communication may be classified. Broadly, communication refers to an exchange of information between organisms. The first thing to notice is that some communicative behaviors count as linguistic and some do not. This distinction is shown on the horizontal dimension of the figure. Language is an elaborate symbolic system that can be used to convey all sorts of information from one person to another. But many kinds of information can certainly be conveyed without it. Animals often send messages, for example, using body postures and movements, cries and roars, and even odors. Linguists would generally agree that none of these forms of expression counts as language. Humans, too, can convey a great deal of use...

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