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Difference between "phonetics" and "phonology" Watch

    • Thread Starter

    What are the differences between "phonetics" and "phonology, anyone?

    (Original post by
    Bruno Repp:
    Let me give it a try. Phonetics is the science of the sounds of speech. It
    includes the study of speech production mechanisms (articulatory
    phonetics), of the acoustic characteristics of speech (acoustic
    phonetics), and of speech perception. It involves speech scientists,
    speech pathologists, engineers, acousticians, and psychologists who do
    measurements and experiments. Phonology is a subfield of linguistics. It
    is concerned with the sound structure of languages in the abstract,
    usually without any measurements or experiments. It deals with abstract
    units called phonemes and investigates the rules by which they are
    combined to make words. There is a small group of people who take an
    empirical approach to phonology ("laboratory phonologists"), but most
    phonologists just sit at their desk and rely on their intuitions and

    In psychology, the term "phonological" has been misused a great deal. For
    example, people are said to rehearse verbal material by means of a
    "phonological loop", which is really inner speech and has nothing to do
    with phonology as such. Perhaps you are a psychologist and are confused
    for that reason.

    Sylvia Moosmueller:
    The difference between phontics and phonology is perhaps quickly explained
    in introductory classes (the phoneme as the "underlying" form), but in
    practice, it often turns out to be quite difficult to decide whether one
    is dealing with phonetics or with phonology; e.g is a given observed
    variation due to coarticulation (phonetics) or to assimilation (phonology)
    or both(!)? Therefore, the issue remains implicit quite often and also
    depends on the theoretical framework. Phonology is defined differently in
    "generative" approaches or in "natural" approaches, this has effects on
    the integration of phonetics. In the same way phonetic theories might
    integrate phonology differently.

    Branka Zei:
    The difference between phonology and phonetics is fundamental.

    The perception of speech sounds implies their categorization. Phonological
    categorization includes only the features that are relevant for
    transmitting meanings. Phonology studies the sound features that are
    relevant for linguistic communication * as well as their distribution and
    organization into phonological systems. Phonemes form systems. Phonetic
    sciences study all kinds of acoustic characteristics that the sounds can
    display regardless of whether they are or not relevant for the primary
    function of a particular language - that is transmitting linguistic
    meanings. Various acoustic characteristics of speech sounds can be
    relevant for example for speaker identification, for his mood or emotions
    but totally irrelevant for the linguistic code he/she is using at the
    moment of speaking. It wasn't until experimental phonetics made progress,
    that phonologists could clearly separate their science from phonetics.
    Both synchronic and diachronic phonology study the way speakers perceive,
    produce and arrange the speech sounds in order to transmit linguistic
    meanings. Phonology belongs to humanities, and phonetics to natural

    As fundamental reading I would suggest the great classic N. S.
    Troubetzkoy's Principals of Phonology. By this work Troubetzkoy made a
    crucial epistemological contribution to linguistic sciences.

    Valeriy Shairo:
    I think it was Trubetskoy who first said that Phonetics is to Phonology as
    Numismatics is to Economics. Although in the years following the Prague
    School, as people started examining speech sounds closer, some speech
    scientists thought that a more appropriate analogy was that of History to
    Mythology. While I wouldn't advocate for either of these views, it does
    seem that they reflect alternative ways in which relationships between
    phonetics and phonology have been considered in the past. Ideally, I
    think, phonetics and phonology can complement each other on different
    levels of analysis, but the demarcation lines between them are often
    somewhat arbitrary.

    Sascha Fagel:
    phonetics deals with the speech sounds as they
    are produced whereas phonology regards the underlying structures and
    processes. Representatives from both sides sometimes claim that the other
    area would be a part of the own field. But in the end it is better not to
    ignore the other viewpoint (as often).

    Mark Hasegawa-Johnson:
    "Phonology is discrete, Phonetics is continuous."

    - Mario Svirsky, ca. 1995
    I gather from skim-reading all of that, that there's very little difference :p:
    • Thread Starter

    Many thanks, worldwide, I think I can extract some ideas from that

    From wikipedia:
    "Phonetics (from the Greek word φωνή, phone meaning 'sound, voice') is the study of sounds and the human voice. It is concerned with the actual properties of speech sounds (phones) as well as those of non-speech sounds, and their production, audition and perception, as opposed to phonology, which is the study of sound systems and abstract sound units (such as phonemes and distinctive features). Phonetics deals with the sounds themselves rather than the contexts in which they are used in languages."

    Probably rather stupidly i thought phonetics were the ways words were spelt and the sounds that comprised them - and phonology was kind of the study of it, almost like the process you go through when looking at the words! I'm probably wrong though!
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Updated: March 5, 2007
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