A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

A Practical Introduction to Phonetics


This book is an introduction to practical phonetics, the description and classification of the sounds of speech. Catford's unique interactive approach leads readers to explore the entire range of human sounds through a series of introspective experiments carried out in their own vocal tracts, proceeding systematically from familiar vocal postures and articulations to new and unknown ones. By actually articulating sounds, and attending to the motor sensations they produce, the reader acquires a deep, personal understanding of the principles of phonetic classification. Informed throughout by recent research in aerodynamics and acoustics, this book will interest a wide range of students and teachers of languages, linguistics, speech therapy, and anthropology.


It may be worth drawing attention to the fact that the title of this book is, designedly, 'A Practical Introduction to Phonetics' and not 'An Introduction to Practical Phonetics', for it is, indeed, an introduction to general, or theoretical, phonetics, though it proceeds towards that goal in a highly practical way.

Readers are introduced to the phonetic classification of the sounds of speech by means of a series of simple introspective experiments carried out inside their own vocal tracts, their own throats and mouths. By actually making sounds (very often silently) and attending to the muscular sensations that accompany their production one can discover how they are produced and learn how to describe and classify them.

At first sight 'making sounds silently' may appear contradictory, but, as Abercrombie (1967) has aptly pointed out, speech is 'audible gesture' and the principal aim of this book is to enable the reader to discover and to analyse the gestural aspect of speech (upon which most phonetic classification is based) and to bring it under conscious control. This must be done, to a large extent, in silence, since the auditory sensations of loud speech tend to mask the motor sensations, which are the perceptual accompaniment of the gestural aspect of speech.

That this kind of experimentation is an effective means of acquiring a knowledge of the categories and principles of general phonetics I know from personal experience, for this was precisely how I learned phonetics as a boy, without a teacher, eagerly reading Sweet Primer of Phonetics and constantly experimenting in my own vocal tract.

Although, as this reference to boyhood experience suggests, phonetics is a fascinating hobby for young people, it is primarily an indispensable tool for all those adults who have to work with language: students of linguistics, teachers and students of languages, teachers of the deaf, the hearing-impaired themselves who may be striving to acquire intelligible speech, actors, and many others. Armed with the understanding of the basic . . .

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