Course Description

We will be considering three fundamental questions:

  • How do we produce speech?
  • How do we perceive speech?
  • How does the nature of these processes influence the sound patterns of languages?

We will also be learning experimental and analytical techniques that enable us to address these (and other) questions.


I will assume a basic knowledge of articulatory phonetic description, transcription and phonological theory.

Topics to be Covered

Phonetic Theory

  1. Overview of 'the speech chain':
    • Articulatory phonetics,
    • Basic acoustics, waveforms and spectrograms,
    • Audition and perception.
  2. Phonetics in relation to the rest of grammar.
    • Can we distinguish phonetic and phonological components of grammar?
    • Do phonetic considerations affect phonological patterning?
  3. Articulatory-acoustic relations.
    • The acoustic theory of speech production (Fant 1960, etc.)
  4. Speech production - What do we control when we talk?
    • Anatomy, coarticulation, the status of targets in speech production, articulatory phonology, timing and prosody.
  5. Speech perception
    • What are the objects of perception? (acoustic or articulatory)
    • Variability, invariance, normalization
  6. What is a possible speech sound?
    • Feature theory
    • Stevens' quantal theory, Lindblom's dispersion theory

Experimental Phonetics

  1. Experimental design and elementary statistics
  2. Digital signal processing
    • Sampling theory
    • FFT, LPC, spectrograms, pitch tracking
    • Using PRAAT speech analysis software

Requirements and Grading

Readings and class discussions 10%
Assignments (about 6) 60%
Final paper/project (may be experimental or literature-based) 30%



Introduction: applications of phonetics, overview

Introduction to acoustics



A/D (Analog to Digital) conversion

3 Position of phonetics in grammars
4 Source-filter theory

Acoustics of vowels

Spectral analysis techniques


Quantal theory

Adaptive dispersion

Source-filter analysis of the properties of speech sounds: fricatives and stops

7 Introduction to statistics

Speech perception I

Source-filter analysis of speech sounds: nasals and laterals


Speech production

Models of coarticulation


Timing and coordination

Prosody and speech production

11 Speech perception II: the problem of variability
12 Student presentations