SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics

Phonetics (PG)

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  • an understanding of how humans produce and perceive speech sounds
  • an understanding of the acoustic manifestation of speech sounds
  • mastery of some acoustic and experimental techniques to investigate the physical manifestation of speech sounds
  • an ability to transcribe southern British English and the sounds of the world’s languages
  • an ability to make and interpret recordings
  • a practical knowledge of the Praat speech analysis software to complete and report on practical assignments

Specific PG outcome additional to UG course:

  • an ability to design phonetic experiments, and to interpret and present the results


This course is taught over 10 week with a two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial per week.

Scope and syllabus

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

Specific PG syllabus additional to UG syllabus:

  • Making a recording; experimental design, statistical analysis and presentation of the results

Method of assessment

One unseen written exam taken in May/June (50%); one essay to be submitted on the Friday after reading week in which the course is taught(10%); one essay to be submitted on the Friday of week one in the term after the one in which the course is taught (10%); two transcription tasks carried out in class time (5% each); design a phonetic experiment of 3000 words (20%), to be submitted on day one, week two, term three.

Suggested reading

Readings for this course will be taken from the following:

  • Ball, M.J. & Rahilly, J. (1999) Phonetics: the Science of Speech.  London: Arnold
  • Catford, J.C. (1988) A Practical Introduction to Phonetics. Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • Clark, J. & C. Yallop (1995/1990) (2nd/1st ed.) Phonetics and Phonology. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Denes, P.B. & E.N. Pinson (1973) The Speech Chain. New York: Anchor Press.
  • Hayward, Katrina M. (2000)  Experimental Phonetics.  London: Longman.
  • Hardcastle, W.J. & J. Laver (eds) (1999) The Handbook of Phonetic Sciences. London: Blackwell.
  • International Phonetic Association (1999) Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press.
  • Johnson, K. (1997) Acoustic and Auditory Phonetics (2nd Edition). Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Kent, R. and C. Read (1992) The acoustic analysis of speech. San Diego/London: Whurr Publishers.
  • Ladefoged, P. & I. Maddieson (1996) The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Ladefoged, P. (1993/1982 3rd/2nd Ed.) A Course in Phonetics. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  • Ladefoged, P. (1996, 2nd edn 1995) Elements of Acoustic Phonetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ladefoged, P. (2001) Vowels and Consonants: An Introduction to the Sounds of Languages. Blackwell.
  • Ladefoged, P. (2003) Phonetic Data Analysis: An Introduction to Fieldwork and Instrumental Techniques.  London: Blackwell.
  • Watkins, J (2002) The phonetics of Wa.  Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules