What is meant by "categorization" in phonetics? It's supposed to be related to transcription in the sense that transcription requires one to categorize speech in some two dimensions.

I only know about the notion of categorial perception (as in the experiment where English speakers are given recordings with plosive-initial words with different VOT, which may sound either aas [ta] or as [da], and where it was found that the change from [ta] to [da] is abrupt categorical as opposed to being gradual). Does "categorization" have to do with this categorical perception? If so, I don't know what two dimensions are meant. My only guess for two dimensions is place and manner of articulation for consonants. But I don't know if that's the right guess.

  • 1
    In what contexts have you encountered the term?
    – Nardog
    Mar 7, 2021 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


Categorization refers to the fact that acoustic stimuli can manifest a continuous range of a phonetic factor, and speakers can be required (in an experiment) to classify that as being of type A versus type B. You can present synthesized stimuli that sound like "tall" or "doll" and manipulate the length of the noise before the vowel, then ask people to decide whether the word being played is "tall" or "doll". In this case, the "category" is choice of linguistic phoneme. Most phonetic research asks people to make word-choice decisions, which is a kind of categorization.

We'd need more context to be able to say more (like, where did you read this?). In general, "transcription" means, listening to (continuous) speech and writing down a series of symbols (sound categories) that represent what you heard.

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