An Introduction to English Phonetics

An Introduction to English Phonetics

An Introduction to English Phonetics

An Introduction to English Phonetics

Synopsis

This book introduces readers to the sounds of spoken English, covering phonetic representation and showing that different forms of representation supply different perspectives on data. The volume also provides an overview of the vocal tract and works through the consonant and vowel sounds of English.

Since English can assume a diverse range of forms, this book gives readers a general phonetic framework to apply to this variety, with illustrations taken from English-speakers across the world. Naturally-occurring English takes a central role, and while words are seen as important, they are not the only source of data. Sounds like clicks are included, because of their use in conversation.

Excerpt

Language is one of the distinctive characteristics of human beings. Without formal instruction, we learn from infanthood the skills that we need to be successful users of a language. For most of us, this will be spoken language, though for some it will be a signed language. In acquiring language, we learn words, and how to put them together; we learn to link words and sentences to meaning; we learn how to use these structures to get what we want, to say how we feel, and to form social bonds with others; and we also learn how to sound like members of the community around us – or perhaps choose to sound different from them.

Linguistics is the formal study of language. Its main sub-disciplines are: syntax, the study of sentence structure; semantics, the study of meaning; pragmatics, the study of meaning in context; morphology, the study of word structure; sociolinguistics, the study of language in its social context; phonology, the study of sound systems; and phonetics, the study of the sounds of speech. In this book, we will be mindful that linguistically significant aspects of the sounds of a language have to do with meaning on some level, whether it is to distinguish words from each other, to join together words of particular kinds, to mark (or do) something social, such as where the speaker comes from, or to handle the flow of talk in a conversation.

Language and speech are often distinguished in linguistics. For many, linguistics constitutes a set of claims about human beings’ universal cognitive or biological capacities. Most of the constructs of linguistics are attempts at explaining commonalities between members of communities which use language, and they are abstract.

Phonetics on the other hand is the systematic study of the sounds of speech, which is physical and directly observable. Phonetics is sometimes seen as not properly linguistic, because it is the outward, physical manifestation of the main object of linguistic research, which is language (not speech): and language is abstract.

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