Phonetics and Phonemics

What is the difference between phonetics and phonemics?

Phonetics is the study of human speech sounds. It deals with the physiological, acoustic and articulatory properties of speech sounds, as how the sounds are produced, transmitted, and received.

There are 3 branches (types) of phonetics, namely: articulatory phonetics, accoustic phonetics, and auditory phonetics.

• Articulatory phonetics is the study of production or articulation or the physiological mechanism of speech sounds. The study of position, shape and movement of articulators or speech organs such as lips, tongue and vocal folds.

• Accoustic Phonetics is the study of physical effects on the surrounding air and its concern with measuring and analyzing of the physical properties of the sound waves we produce when we speak. The study of the property of the sound waves, such as their frequency and harmonics.

• Auditory phonetics is the study of the sound physical effects on the nerves leading to the brain, or how the sound is received by the inner ear and perceived by the brain.

What about phonemics?

Phonemics is the study of the distribution of sound systems in human languages. A Phoneme is a particular set of sounds produced in a particular language and distinguishable by native speakers of that language from other (sets of) sounds in that language. For example, the vowels in the word ‘pin’ and ‘pen’ are different phonemes, and so are the consonants at the beginning of the words ‘petand ‘bet’. The same happens to the nasal sounds in the words ‘sin’ and ‘sing’. Those sounds are phonemes because they are found to be different in English language.

When we talk about phonemes, we talk about a specific language, while when we talk about phonetics, it is universal, it doesn’t refer to a specific language but human speech sounds in general.



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