Understanding Phonetics








Phonetics is a subdivision of linguistics that is comprised of the study of the sound of human speech, in sign languages, the corresponding aspect of sign. It deals with the physical characteristics of signs or speech sounds, their mental production, auditory properties, auditory view, and neuropsychological status.

The study of phonetics began as early as 500BC in India, with Panini’s explanation of the place and style of verbalization of consonants in his 5th century BC treaties on Sansktrit. The main Indic alphabets nowadays order the consonants according to Panini’s categorization. The Phoenicians are accredited as the first creators of phonetic system of writing, from which the main modern phonetics are derived. Current phonetics begins with trials to bring in a system of exact notation for verbal communication sounds.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) has been used as the foundation for transcription of verbal communication. Latin alphabet is its basis and is able to transcribe the majority characteristics of speech such as vowels, consonants and supresengual features. Every acknowledged phoneme on hand within the known languages in the world is assigned its own equivalent symbol.

Voice onset time (VOT)

Voice onset time is a feature of the production of stop constants. It is the length of time that passes between the release of a stop constant and onset of voicing, the vocal folds vibration, or, according to other authors, periodicity. Some author allow negative values to mark voicing that begins during the period of articulatory closure for the constant and continues the release, for those aspirated voiced stops in which there is no voicing present at the instant of articulatory closure.

Voice plosives

Word-initial plosives are characterized by total closure in the oral cavity, a built-up pressrure throughout which shaking of the folds persists, and abrupt release. The English phonemes /b/, /d/ and /g/ are distinguished from the voiceless plosives /ph/, /th/ and /kh/ because [www.bme.ogi.edu]:

They are spoken all through the closure (and even through the burs)

They are not aspirated

They last for shorter time than the voiceless plosives.

If in any case preceded by a vowel, the vowel is longer than for a unvoiced plosive; the whole syllable will thus approximately equal in tow cases.

Patterns for voice plosives

Voice plosives for all time have voiced closures. Voicing is visible if the plosive is intervocalic. The lack of readily evident closure and burst is particularly right with /b/, weakest of all the English plosives. Once a burst is not visible upon the first assessment but it formants in the preceded phoneme appear to be sinking in the direction of the position of the bilabial, look for quick formant transitions into the vowel preceded by the probable plosives (10-20ms). These short formants transitions signify that the phone is bilabial stop instead of the bilabial guide /w/ (slower moving, 30-50ms) or nasal /m/ (slow still, 50-70ms). These span estimates rely on the rate of the persons speaking and are based on CSLU”s measurement of uninterrupted speech.

The uttered closure, or voice bar, is time to time mistaken for the nasal murmur or with the glide /w/. However, one manner to let know the dissimilarity is by noting the height of various F1 manifestations. A voiced closure is always limited to a lesser frequency range compared to glide or nasal. Hence the amplitude of the uttered closure will also be lower. Taking quick waveform is the easiest way to evaluate amplitude. A voiced closure is on standard half as high in frequency and in amplitude as nasal. A glide at its widest point, on the other hand, is twice as high as a nasal. Word-initial closure in constant speech average 50ms in length, while word-final closure sum up to 100 ms. Dual plosives have a much longer closure than solo. [speech.bme.ogi.edu]

Distinguishing characteristics

The bilabial /b/

It is the weakest of the plosives

When the burst closure is unmistakable, both are more often than not weaker than the other voiced plosives.

Typical the bilabial formant dippings and risings.

The alveolar /d/

Look for flags approximately 1800 Hz and 2800 Hz touching into sonorant

After a nasal, look for inferior amplitude on waveform throughout closure.

Frequently released with a schwa in word-final position (for instance past tenses)

The velar /g/Velar pinch

The strongest rupture and closure of all spoken plosives

May have multiple bursts


Voice onset time is divided into two categories, known as positive voice onset time and negative voice onset time. Positive voice onset time is also referred to as ‘voicing lag’, and occurs if the vocal-fold action starts after the release of the stop closure release.

In vocal onset time, the vocal-fold vibration starts before a plosive bursts. The three words which can be considered as having negative voice onset time are; the voice bilabial stop /b/, voiced alveolar stop /d/, and finally the voiced palatal stop with voice of -89ms, -78ms and -58ms, in that order.

Vocal fold vibration starts after a plosive’s burst, in positive voice onset time. The words that can be considered to have positive voice onset time are the voiceless aspirated bilabial stop /p/ and the aspirated palatal /c/. [http://ejournals.ukm.my/3l/article/viewFile/959/877]

Plosives are always introduced first because of the type of constriction in the mouth by which they are uttered. They are six in number: /p,b,,k,d,g/. /b/ and /p/ are produced with the constriction at the lips hence known as bilabile. For /p/, the vocal cords produce no voicing, and is therefore referred to as a voiceless plosive. /d/ and /t/ are produced with the constriction of the tongue’s bade against the ridge behind the upper teeth, and therefore it is voiceless (alveolar). /g/ and /k/ are produced with the constriction of the tongue’s back against soft palate (velar). /k/ is normally voiceless. [http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/contactsandpeople/academic/tench/consonants.html]


/b/ /p/



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Malmberg, B. (1963). Phonetics: [physiological phonetics ; experimental phonetics ; evolutionary phonetics ; phonemics]. New York: Dover.

O’Connor, J. D. (1973). Phonetics. Harmondsworth: Pelican Original.

Roach, P. (2001). Phonetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reetz, H., & Jongman, A. (2009). Phonetics: Transcription, production, acoustics, and perception. Chichester, U.K: Blackwell.

Laver, J. (2002). Principles of phonetics. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Roach, P. (2001). English phonetics and phonology: [Hauptbd.]. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.

O’Connor, J. D. (1973). Phonetics. Harmondsworth: Pelican Original.

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