History of Phonetic Development

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LECTURE 1

1. History of phonetic development
2. Subject of Phonetics
3. Branches of Phonetics
4. Connection of Phonetics with other sciences
5. Methods and devices of phonetic investigation

1. History of phonetic development

The “birthplace” of phonetics is considered to be Ancient India. The idea of studying sounds was brought about by the need to understand Veda (1500 BC), i.e. sacred songs (brahmans) sang during religious ceremonies. The principal question for the priests was correct reading of brahmans, as those texts were believed to come from gods and so could no way be distorted or mispronounced. Ultimately, the interest to sounds and pronunciation is explained by the fact that in those times speech was thought to be a magic phenomenon and sounds were ascribed some magic features. For instance, all ancient sacred songs, spells and incantations were based on special use of sounds, certain rules of their placing and ordering. The first description of a language was suggested by Panini (Ancient India, 300 or 400 BC). Panini’s grammar was mainly focused on phonetics and morphology of Sanskrit. It included a most detailed and accurate description of sound physiology and articulation. Besides, the book touched upon some principles of versification. As a science in its own right phonetics began to develop in Western Europe and in Russia only in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Here are some data connected with the history of phonetic development: 1829 – laryngoscope was invented;

1852 – first observations of the vocal cords were made;
1877 – gramophone was invented;
1886 – International Phonetic Association (IPA) was founded. IPA started publications of a special phonetic magazine “Le Mattre Phonetique”. It stated phonetic symbols for sounds of many existing languages.

2. Subject of Phonetics
Phonetics is a special science, which stands apart from other linguistic disciplines, such as lexicology, grammar, stylistics, etc. as it is concerned with the oral aspect of the language (contrasted to written speech), studying the material (physiological and acoustic) and functional features of speech sounds and intonation. The term “phonetics” originates from the Greek word “phonetikos”, which means “vocalic”, “related to sounds”. Consequently, at the early period of its development the aim of phonetics as a science was to study individual speech sounds. However, later the scope of phonetic studies widened greatly, and today phonetics is understood as a branch of linguistics concerned with the study of speech in human communication. It studies not only individual speech sounds and their behaviour in the flow of speech, but the whole sound matter of a language: sounds, syllables, stress and intonation.

3. Branches of Phonetics

Phonetics has the following branches: 1) articulatory (psysiological) and perceptive (auditory), 2) acoustic, 3) functional (linguistic). Articulatory and perceptive investigation of speech sounds is done on the basis of a good knowledge of the voice and sound producing mechanisms, their structure, work and perceptive (articulatory) effects. Acoustic properties of sounds, that is quantity, or length, tamber, intensity, pitch, temporal factor are investigated by the acoustic and auditory branch of phonetics. The phonological or functional properties of phonemes, syllables, accent and intonation are investigated by means of special linguistic methods, which help to interpret them as socially significant elements. Besides the branches of phonetics described above, there are other divisions of the science. We may speak of general phonetics and the phonetics of a particular language (special, or descriptive phonetics). General phonetics studies all the sound-producing possibilities of the human speech apparatus and the ways they are used for purpose of communication. The phonetics of a particular language studies the contemporary phonetic system of the particular...
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