Phonetics as a branch of linguistics

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From the lungs through the wind - pipe the air - stream passes to the upper stages of the vocal tract. First of all it passes to the larynx containing the vocal cords.

The function of the vocal cords consists in their role as a vibrator set in motion by the air - stream sent by the lungs. At least two actions of the vocal cords as a vibrator should be mentioned.

The opening between the

vocal cords is known as the glottis.

The most important speech function of the vocal cords is their role in the production of voice. The effect of voice is achieved when the vocal cords are brought together and vibrate when subjected to the pressure of the air - passing from the lungs. This vibration is caused by compressed air forcing an opening of the glottis and the following reduced air - pressure permitting the vocal cords to come together.

The height of the speaking voice depends on the frequency of the vibrations.

The more frequently the vocal cords vibrate the higher the pitch is. From the larynx the stream passes to the pharynx, the mouth and the nasal cavities. The shapes of these Cavities modify the note produced in the larynx thus giving rise to particular speech sounds.

The following four main types of phonetics may be distinguished:

1. Special phonetics is concerned with the study of phonetics system of a concrete language. When the phonetic system is studied in its static form, at a particular period (synchronically, we speak about descriptive phonetics). When the system is studied in its historical development (diachronically) we speak about historical, or evolutionary phonetics.

Historical phonetics uses the philological method of investigation. It studies written documents and compares the spelling and pronunciation of one and the same word in different periods of the history of the language.[3]

2. General Phonetics which studies the human sound producing possibilities, the functioning of his speech mechanism and the ways they are used in all languages to pronounce speech sounds, syllables, stress and intonation. It is apart of General Linguistics.

3. Descriptive Phonetics studies the phonetic system of a certain language. For example: English Phonetics, Uzbek Phonetics etc.

4. Historical or Diachronical Phonetics which studies the changes a sound undergoes in the development of a language and languages.

5. Comparative - Typological Phonetics. It studies the phonetic features of two or more languages of different system such as English, Russian, Uzbek etc. It is part of Comparative - Typological Linguistics.


Any segment of a language consist of a sound chain which is specified by some articulatory, acoustic and perceptual features. But not all the phonetic features function to distinguish words, morphemes and phrases and some of them cannot serve this purpose. Thus, it is the function of distinction and also identification which is characteristic of all linguistic units. According to their functions phonetic units - sounds, syllables, stress and intonation can be described linguistically and classified to some groups or subgroups. Thus, Phonetics has four main aspects: articulatory (physiological), acoustic (physic), perceptual (auditory) and phonological (social, functional, linguistic).

The branch of phonetics that studies the way in which the air is set in motion, the movements of the speech organs and coordination of these movements, in-the production of single sounds and trains of sounds is called articulatory phonetics.[4]

Acoustic phonetics studies the way in which the air vibrates between the speaker's mouth and the listener's ear. until recently, articulatory phonetics has been the dominating branch, and most descriptive work has been done in articulatory terms.

The branch of phonetics investigating the hearing process is known as auditory phonetics Its interests lie more in the sensation of hearing, which is brain activity, than in the physiological working of the ear or the nervous activity between the ear and the brain. The means by which we discriminate sounds - quality, sensation of pitch, " loudness and length", are relevant here. The noises we hear may be classified in terms of three features : continuity, resonance and timber.

As for the phonological aspect it differs from all the above mentioned three aspects. The theoretical study which sets up to account all the phonetic distinction of a language is called phonology. Some linguists prefer the terms phonemics and phonematics. Phonology is one of the aspects of studying. Phonetics data : otherwise it is purely linguistic and social aspect of studying phonetics.

Phonetics in the wider sense includes phonology as distinct from morphology, syntax and stylistics. But in narrow sense the term phonetics is observed in our country. Phonetics and phonology have two levels of investigation: segmental and suprasegmental. Segmental phonology studies phonemes realised in various speech sounds. Suprasegmental phonology studies the distinctive features realised in syllables, stress and intonation. It is convenient to use the term phonemics for segmental phonology a sit refers to the term phoneme itself. As to suprasegmental phonology the term prosodics may be used. Thus, phonology may be divided into phonemics and prosodics. The fundamental concept of phonemics is the phoneme which is the smallest unit of a language system.[5]

The oldest, simplest and most readily available method is the method of direct observation. This method consists in observing the movements and positions of one's own or other people's organs of speech in pronouncing various speech sounds, as well as in analyzing one's own kinesthetic sensations during the articulation of speech sound in comparing them with auditory impressions.

Objective methods involve the use of various instrumental techniques (paleography, laryngoscopy, photography, cinematography, X-ray photography and cinematography and electromyography). This type of investigation together with direct observation is widely used in experimental phonetics. The objective methods and the subjective ones are complementary and not opposite to one another. Nowadays we may use the up-to-date complex set to fix the articulatory parameters of speech - so called articulograph.

The methods of investigation used in phonetics vary, but there are three principal methods: (1) the direct observation method; (2) the linguistic method; (3) the experimental method.

1. The direct observation method comprises three important modes of phonetic analysis: by ear, by sight and by muscular sensation. Investigation by means of this method can be effective only if the persons employing it have been specially trained to observe the minutest movements of their own and other people’s speech organs, and to distinguish the slightest variations in sound quality. Every phonetician undergoes a special training, in the course of which his phonetic ear, and also his muscular sensation, are developed. By a “phonetic ear” is meant the capability to distinguish the exact quality of sounds pronounced in various sound sequences or in isolation, whether is one’s mother tongue or in a foreign language.

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