Branches of English Phonetics with explanation

The branches of English Phonetics are not hard to master.If we want to understand the concept of English phonetics, we will have to understand its branches as well. in this article we will discuss the main branches of phonetics with an explanation. as phonetics is the study of human speech sound so we it is multidimentional in terms of articulation, acoustic and auditory or perception.

Branches of English Phonetics

There are three main branches of english phonetics

1-Articulatory Phonetics (Branches of English Phonetics)


The articulatory phonetics is the area of phonetics, which deals with the articulation of individual sounds busy. It examines the movements of the lips, tongue, and jaw (the active articulators) in relation to the teeth, alveoli, hard and soft palate, etc. (the passive articulators).


It is the one that studies the Sounds of a language from the Physiological point of view, that is, it describes which oral organs are involved in its production, in what position they are found and how those positions vary the different paths that the air can follow when it leaves through the Mouth, Nose, or Throat, so that different sounds are produced. It does not deal with all the activities involved in the production of a sound but selects only those that have to do with the place and form of articulation.

The symbols phonetic articulatory definitions and descriptions are abbreviated such activities. The most frequently used phonetic symbols are those adopted by the International Phonetic Association in the AFI International Phonetic Alphabet which are written in square brackets.

Sound articulation

The organs involved in the articulation of sound are mobile or fixed. The lips , the jaw , the tongue and the vocal cords are mobile , which are sometimes called articulatory organs. With its help, the speaker modifies the air outlet that comes from the lungs. The teeth, the alveoli, the palate and the soft palate are fixed.

The sounds are produced when they contact two articulatory organs such bilabial p, which requires contact between the two lips, also when they contact a fixed body and another articulatory, and the sound is named with the organs that produce the joint, or point of articulation, such as the labiodental sound f which requires contact between the lower lip and the upper incisors.

When the tongue is the mobile organ, it is not referred to in the name of the sound, thus the sound t that is produced when the tongue touches the back of the upper incisors is called dental.

Articulation mode

The mode of articulation is determined by the arrangement of the mobile organs in the oral cavity and how they prevent or free the passage of air.

This action can consist of the instantaneous and complete interruption of the air passage for the implosives; in leaving the nasal passage open but interrupting the oral passage for the nasal passages; in producing a contact with the tongue but leaving free the passage of air to both sides for the lateral ones; in producing a slight interruption first and then leaving free passage for the affricates; in allowing the passage of Air through a narrow passage through which the air passes brushing for the fricatives, and in allowing the free passage of air through the center of the tongue without any friction for the vowels

2-Acoustic Phonetics


It is the study of phonetics from the point of view of sound waves. It deals with the scientific measurement of the sound waves that are created in the air when we speak. Just as we attribute articulatory features to phonemes, we can attribute acoustic features to sounds: vowel / non-vowel and consonant / non-consonant, compact / diffuse voiced / deaf, nasal / oral, interrupted / continuous, strident / matte, severe / sharp. These measurements are reflected in spectrograms, in which the different formants into which the sounds are decomposed are reflected.


Acoustic Phonetics is defined by some sources as the branch of Phonetics whose purpose is to study the articulated sound of a language, considering it from its acoustic part as a sound wave.  It is the one that studies the sound wave as the output of any resonator; that is, the system equates phonation with any other system broadcast and playback of sounds.

When we refer to acoustic phonetics, it is important to know that it is divided into two branches: The acoustic branch that is responsible for the physical structure of sound and how the human ear perceives sounds and records them and then performs brain engrams; These engrams or traces are those that allow the decoding of the message to take place after a mixture of nerve impulses. The articulatory branch is in charge of the way in which we produce sounds, the way in which the sound wave contacts our speech-articulating organs to trigger the phonemes of our language. The two branches complement each other and enrich phonetics

When the communication process develops, the brain plays an important role in the speech circuit as it develops the starting and ending point of the message. In turn, by converting neurophysiological impulses, it allows the encoding and decoding of the message, in this case speaking from phonetics, we would say the oral message. The brain allows us to understand, process and convert the message for its understanding. Following the circuit, the phono articulating organs allow to develop the production phase. The relationship between lips, tongue, teeth, larynx, pharynx and glottis and the way in which they all interact allows the production of the sound wave through the air; the way the wave collides and resonates in these organs generates the production of sounds which we classify in order to understand them,

Continuing with the thread of the speech circuit, the acoustic phase contains the waves that form and transmit sounds, which are the object of study of acoustic phonetics. The perception of the sound wave is carried out through the ear and its parts whose function is to synthesize said wave and then be processed in the brain (decoding).

We could define sound from psychoacoustics as the process in which sound is decoded through auditory perception. From physics, the vibration that travels through the air generates the sound wave. These waves look for means of displacement either by rarefaction or compression that exert influence on the medium through which the wave travels. Combining both concepts, the psychoacoustic and the physical, the vibration travels through the air to reach the phono articulating organs producing the sound wave that is transformed into the phonemes.

Depending on the number of cycles that the wave produces in time, the frequency of the wave is generated, which allows us to classify the sounds according to the timbre, being these bass or treble, when these sounds arrive or collide in the resonators, their frequency changes. natural, developing the formants, the formants are those areas of enhanced frequency that enrich the sounds and add characteristics that enrich their sonographic analysis. It is important to add that the natural resonators par excellence are the pharynx and the oral cavity, according to how the sound wave vibrates in the vocal structure, it generates the characteristic timbre of each vowel.

In this way, the vowel vs. consonant contrast is generated, vowels are characterized by stability in frequency while consonants are identified by the change they generate in frequencies; the contrast that occurs characterizes the behavior of vowels when they are combined with consonants. As previously mentioned, the resonance site of the vowels is in the oral cavity. Air is produced in the glottis, the tongue functions as a channel for displacement of the sound wave and then reaches the oral cavity where, according to the opening and closing of the lips, the sound is transformed into open or closed vowels. Other contrasts such as the grave / acute and dense / diffuse opposition also characterize the vowels.

The initiation of formants in the oral cavity has a direct relationship with the behavior of the wave when consonants are produced, in this way we would describe three processes to understand the relationship between formants and consonants:


the rounding and the labial projection leads to the descent of the second formant (F2).


The more posterior the lingual position alters the behavior of the formants, the second formant (F2) increases considerably, being minimal with the first (Fo) and third formant (F3).


The descent of the soft palate nasalizes or not the sounds in turn the behavior of the tip of the tongue, therefore, the second (F2) and third (F3) formants and the first (Fo) formant are not altered.

Now we are going to talk about the acoustic characteristics of consonants, enriching this concept by talking about the point of articulation of consonants to understand acoustics, production and perception of them within phonetics:


They are characterized by being momentary and generate a moment of explosion on contact with air in the phono articulating organs. Mostly there is a closure of the mouth, when referring to the articulatory point we would say that they are occlusive. The plosives or explosives can be oral where the sound is interrupted when the consonant is emitted, the plosives or nasal explosives where a descent of the first formant is generated.


They are characterized by the friction of the air when passing through the phono articulating organs, in turn we would say that they are constructive, they could resonate at low and high frequencies.


they are characterized by having two moments, one interruptive and one constructive, that is, it is a combination between the explosive and the fricative, from the articulatory point they are semi-occlusive.


the glottal opening is large in the supraglottic cavity, this is its main characteristic. They also have a similar formantic structure as vowels. There are two groups: lateral liquids are continuous and vibrating liquids that are interrupted.

To conclude, we could say that acoustic phonetics allows the analysis of sounds complementing each other from auditory perception; it is enriched when the point of articulation of the phonemes is understood, and thus this form can be understood as the objective of its study.

This understanding of acoustic phonetics leads to perfect speech therapy in order to favor the communication process of human beings

3-Auditory Phonetics


Auditory phonetics is one of the three basic branches of phonetics, together with articulatory and acoustic phonetics, which studies sound from the receiver’s point of view, that is, it studies the mechanisms of sound perception


Auditory phonetics is a branch of phonetics associated with listening to speech sounds and comprehending speech. Thus, this entails the study of the relationship between speech stimuli and the listener’s response to such stimuli, mediated by mechanisms of the peripheral and central auditory system, including certain areas of the brain.

Phonetics will recognize Auditory Phonetics as one of its branches, which in turn will be understood as the study carried out to understand the concrete, tangible and measurable sound of the sound of a Language, but from the point of view of receiver speaker, that is, he is interested in knowing which are the organs and mechanisms involved in the detection, reception and perception of sound, by the ear of the person listening to another speak

Perceptual Phonetics is also known as Auditory Phonetics. It is part of the 3 essential branches of phonetics, along with articulatory phonetics and acoustic phonetics. Its main task is to study all the sounds according to the decomposition that it acquires when it reaches the ears of the receiver.

In particular, perceptual phonetics analyzes and characterizes the different mechanisms that intervene in the human being to be able to perceive or capture sounds, whether they are emitted by speech and pronunciation or through any object.

For perceptual phonetics, the listener is the main object of study and is responsible for analyzing the way in which the ears can be stimulated by sound waves and their reaction after interpreting and decoding said waves for the understanding of sounds.

According to the conclusions of this branch, the human ear works through three elements or parts: the inner ear , the middle ear and the outer ear .

All are articulated to take the energy that comes equipped in the acoustic waves, and then transform them into a nerve impulse using the eardrum as a translator

Two processes: hearing and perception of the sound wave • Receiving ear transformation of the sound wave into impulses

nervous that are transmitted to the brain

Three parts: outer, middle and inner ear

Three parts of the ear

External ear

 Ear (known as lobe or pinna). It works as an antenna. The drink protects the ear. • External auditory canal. Air tube (2.5 or 3 cm, diameter 0.7 cm). Closed inside by the eardrum.

Middle ear

Tympanic membrane. Very sensitive to air vibrations. Bones: hammer (receives energy), anvil (amplifies energy), stirrup (transferred to the ear internal).

Inner ear

Oval window. Entrance to the cochlea. Three semicircular canals (membranous labyrinth) filled with fluid (equilibrium, position bodily).

To sum up the whole discussion, we may conclude the the Branches of English Phonetics are comprised of Articulatory, Acoustic and Auditory or Perceptinal phonetics. the branches of English phonetics cover the entire concept of human speech whether speaking or listening.

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