SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics


Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1


Pre-requisite:  General linguistics (152900069) and/or Introduction to Phonology (152900070)

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this course, a student should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the International Phonetic alphabet, have basic skills in phonetic transcription, understand the main principles of articulation, be familiar with the main acoustic properties of the speech signal, and be able to design and perform very simple phonetic experiments.


This course will be taught over 1 term (11 weeks) and will consist of a 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

Phonetics is a central part of linguistic study and forms part of our offerings for the undergraduate programme.  This course covers the following:

  • The speech chain; phonetics compared to phonology
  • Principles of transcription; IPA broad transcription of British English
  • Articulation: the organs of speech, vocal anatomy
  • Principles of classificatory description of sounds
    • airstream mechanisms: egressive vs ingressive; pulmonary, glottalic, velaric
    • phonation: modal, breathy, creaky, whisper etc
    • vowels and semivowels
    • place of articulation
    • manner of articulation
    • syllables and suprasegmentals: tones, intonation
  • IPA and narrow transcription of English, other languages, nonsense words, disordered speech
  • Acoustics: Speech pressure waves, sound spectra, spectrograms
  • Acoustic description of vowels and consonants
  • Non-acoustic experimental phonetics: laryngography/EGG, air pressure
  • Making a recording; experimental design, statistics

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination paper taken in May/June (60%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1 after reading week in the term in which the course is taught (15%); one essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on the last day of the term in which the course is taught (15%); 2 transcription tasks during the term 5% each (10%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules