Glossary: phonetics

Explanation

Phonetics is the study of how speech sounds are made and perceived. This involves describing, classifying and transcribing sounds. Phoneticians make use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, a system for transcribing all of the sounds found in the languages of the world. Phoneticians also study the speech variation of different accents and dialects.

Phonetics and phonology - Consonants

Consonants

Consonants are produced by pushing air up from the lungs and out through the mouth and/or nose. Airflow is disrupted by obstructions made by various combinations of vocal articulator movements, so that audible friction is produced. 

They are described in terms of (1) voicing, (2) place of articulation and (3) manner of articulation.

Phonetics and phonology - Introduction

A series of activities and content for exploring the sounds of English

Goals

  • Understand the difference between phonetics and phonology
  • Explore the ways that we can write sounds down, using the phonetic alphabet
  • Apply this knowledge to a text and consider some of the stylistic effects of sound choices

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan is split into sections, and includes enough material for around 3 hours of teaching: (1) a starter activity (group discussion); (2) an explanation of phonetics and phonology; (3) vowels; (4) consonants; (5) a transcripti

Phonetics and phonology - Starter

Group discussion questions

You could start the lesson by asking students questions such as:

 

Phonetics and phonology - Terminology

What do phoneticians and phonologists do?

Phonetics and phonology are the branches of linguistics that deals with speech sounds. This broad ranging definition is indicative of the broad type of work that phoneticians/phonologists do:

Phonetics and phonology - The sounds of poetry

Looking at the importance of sound in a literary text

Sound patterns in poetry

Here are two extracts from the poem Digging by Seamus Heaney. In the poem, a son talks openly about his perceived failures in following in his father's footsteps, namely because of his lack of skill with a spade and as a farmer.

Read them out loud:

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down 

Phonetics and phonology - Transcribing spoken language

Transcribing sounds

In this activity, you'll be using your knowledge of articulatory phonetics to transcribe spoken language. To do so, you'll be using the phonetic alphabet - a system designed by linguists to represent speech sounds on the page.

Phonetics and phonology - Vowels

In the starter activity, we asked the question 'How can we write down speech sounds? For example, how can we capture the difference between a northern British accent saying bath and a southern British accent saying bath?

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