I already read this but it omits prosody. The inclusion of prosody confuses me and beclouds the other two terms (again). Please explain as though I were 10 years old.

[Source:] Phonetics is the study of the neurological bases of speech, the actions and movements of the vocal organs when we speak, the acoustics of the sound waves carrying speech and how speech is received by the ears and interpreted by the brain, I have [greyed] [...] the part that is of most interest to language teachers.

Phonology is concerned with the sounds made in a particular language. The wallchart of symbols that some English teachers display in their rooms is usually a table of the English phonemes.

Prosody (or suprasegmental phonology) deall with such things as rhythm, stress, pitch and intonation.

Prosody looks like a subset of phonology. So how does it compare?


If you were 10 years old, you would not ask such questions, and there would be no point in answering the question. So I opt to treat you like an adult. If this answer inspires a further question, you know what to do.

Prosody is neutral as to the phonology / phonetics division, just as "place of articulation" is, which means that it can be studied phonetically or phonologically. The physical manifestations of "prosody" are duration, pitch, and "segmental cohesion" by which I mean whether segments exhibit a special closeness which suggests that two segments might be "in the same X", where X could be a hypothesized constituent composed of multiple segments, such as "onset", "rhyme", "syllable", "foot". I deliberately disregard conceptions of "prosody" where everything is prosody, since that reduces the concept to vacuity. Your source mis-characterises the difference between phonetics and phonology: it seems to adhere to an erroneous theory of the 60's that phonetics is physically automatic and universal, and phonological is anything language-specific.

Certain things studied in the realm of "prosody" are strictly phonetic, namely the role of amplitude, and "voice quality" (not to be confused with phonation type).

  • 2
    This is a good answer, but I see no reason why a 10-year-old could not be interested in linguistics. May 12 '15 at 6:00

The real distinction you need to make is between:

  1. Segmental phonology
  2. Suprasegmental phonology

Prosody is a feature of suprasegmental phonology of language. It can be studied either with the method and within the theoretical framework of phonetics or phonology. But I would argue that at the suprasegmental level the phonology/phonetics distinction is less relevant than at the segmental level.

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