24.915 | Fall 2015 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Linguistic Phonetics


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

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.


24.900 Introduction to Linguistics or equivalent. 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

  • Cues and the perceptual space of speech sounds.
  • Lexical access—the role of phonetic and phonological grammars in interpretation of speech signals.

6. What is a possible speech sound?

  • Feature theory
  • Steven’s quantal theory, Lindblom’s dispersion theory

7. Phonetics and sound change

Experimental Phonetics

1. Experimental design and elementary statistics

2. Digital Signal Processing

  • Sampling theory
  • FFT, LPC, spectrograms, pitch tracking
  • Using PRAAT speech analysis software


Assignments (8) 50%
Final paper / project: May be experimental or literature based 50%

Readings and class discussions are required, but not part of the grading rubric.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2015
Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets
Written Assignments
Lecture Notes