Questions tagged [phonetics]

The study of the production and perception of sounds or "phones".

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10 answers
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When should one use slashes or square brackets when transcribing in IPA?

When should one use /fubar/ and when [fubar] when transcribing in IPA? What are the differences?
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44 votes
15 answers
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What's the difference between phonetics and phonology?

Having practiced armchair linguistics for some years I should be able to sum up the difference off the top of my head, yet often I don't know which term to use. And looking them up on Wikipedia doesn'...
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How do linguists place the vowels of a language precisely on the vowel trapezoid?

Since vowels in human speech are a continuous spectrum rather than a discrete set, many descriptions of languages I’ve seen — not only on Wikipedia — place the vowels of a language as dots in a two-...
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39 votes
5 answers
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Why is there (almost) no variety to the Hebrew accent in Israel?

Hebrew is my native language, and I grew up and spent most of my life in Israel. Unlike English, in Hebrew we don't have a variety of accents. In fact, generally all of the people in Israel have the ...
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38 votes
4 answers
6k views

Why isn't "I've" a proper response?

Suppose someone asked me the question, "Have you completed the project?". A standard response would be "I have". Why does the equivalent "I've" sound so strange and never used as a replacement? I am ...
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24 votes
23 answers
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Is there a language whose writing is 100% phonemic?

Is there a language that has a complete one-to-one correspondence between the graphemes (letters) and the phonemes of the language? In other words, is there a language that is 100% ideally phonemic?
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21 votes
2 answers
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Why is /h/ called voiceless vowel phonetically, and /h/ consonant phonologically?

Why is /h/ called voiceless vowel phonetically, and /h/ consonant phonologically?
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20 votes
4 answers
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Is the schwa sound consistent?

The first syllable in "about" (ə'baʊt) is schwa, so is the second one in the "salad" ('sæləd), but iv'e never heard them pronounced the same way. in salad it sounds more like the i in "trick". ...
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19 votes
2 answers
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What is the function of the soft sign (Ь) in Russian?

After some searching, I'm still unsure about what function the soft sign (Ь) performs in Russian. I have read that it indicates declension, palatisation, and iotation in different contexts, but with ...
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19 votes
3 answers
4k views

Why does stop VOT duration vary depending on place of articulation?

From the (albeit citation needed) section of the Wikipedia article on aspiration: Spanish /p t k/, for example, have voice onset times (VOTs) of about 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds, whereas English /p ...
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18 votes
4 answers
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Why was "zh" picked to represent /ʒ/, and where does it come from?

As a native French speakers I used to be puzzled by Zh being used for /ʒ/. At first because I didn't understand the need for it, since in French j is /ʒ/, and dj is /dʒ/. Then I understood why English ...
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18 votes
4 answers
41k views

Automated French/Italian/German to IPA transcription

I'm looking for a website or software that will take text written in a source language and produce a transcription in IPA. The languages I am interested in are French, Italian and German, but if you ...
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17 votes
3 answers
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Why vowels sound different from each other

This might be a basic question but I am confused about how mouth shapes for vowels, at a deeper level, are producing different sounds. Wanted to see if one could demonstrate with another instrument ...
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17 votes
4 answers
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How do tones work in music sung in tonal languages, such as Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese?

I have not yet studied tonal languages, so it might be understandable, but when I listen to Chinese music, for example, I'm unable to perceive tones. This makes me think they are partially or ...
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17 votes
4 answers
883 views

Why do rhotics pattern together?

Looking at the IPA, many different types of sounds are given symbols based of of the Latin R,r: approximants, trills, taps/flaps; both coronal and uvular segments. Sometimes, these sounds are ...
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17 votes
2 answers
5k views

When and where did the guttural 'r' originate?

I have often wondered why French is (almost) unique in the Romance languages in using the guttural 'r' – in particular, the uvular fricative. Apart from Piedmontese / Piedmontese Italian (and even ...
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16 votes
6 answers
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Alternatives to IPA?

Are there any other graphic systems that attempt to be as complete as the International Phonetic Alphabet?
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15 votes
10 answers
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Is there an easy way to type IPA?

I'm currently using the virtual IPA keyboard on TypeIt, but it takes forever. Is there an easy way to type IPA? I've found this list of Unicode keyboards on SIL.org but I'm not too sure how to ...
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15 votes
3 answers
3k views

Whispered Voiced Consonants

Is there a difference between voiced and unvoiced consonants when whispering, which as I understand it, does not use the vocal cords? I know it sounds silly to ask because we can all understand ...
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15 votes
1 answer
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Can all languages be "whispered" equally well?

Watching a movie recently I found I couldn't make out the dialogue because it was all whispered. I turned the volume up, and had no problems hearing everything. It seems to me that all words are ...
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15 votes
2 answers
483 views

Why does Polish have male and female accents?

This is particularly interesting to me as I can't seem to find any information on the topic, but, having listened to numerous Polish speakers from both sexes, the male─female pronounciational split is ...
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14 votes
3 answers
312 views

term for gibberish intended to resemble specific language

Is any term identified, among linguists, for an effect by which some speech or text has no meaning, and yet superficially resembles, by following certain patterns, speech or text from a particular ...
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14 votes
2 answers
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About the Swedish /ɧ/

Swedish has quite a peculiarity that I haven't found (yet) in other languages. There are some spellings that are pronounced all the same way. Currently the number of these spellings is disputed, but ...
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14 votes
2 answers
902 views

Do dialects without the meet-meat merger neutralize the distinction in some contexts?

For many dialects of English (including my own) multiple historical lexical sets are merged into one "FLEECE" set (this diaphoneme can be represented with IPA /iː/). I've read about the basics of the ...
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13 votes
3 answers
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Is the "p" in "spin" really a "b"?

Daniel Everett claims in Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes (Ch. 11) that the English "p" and "b" in "pin" and "bin" are separate phonemes, since they alone distinguish the words "pin" and "bin," whereas ...
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13 votes
7 answers
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What is the difference between voiced and voiceless stop consonants?

As a native speaker of American English, when I was listening to the difference sounds in this IPA chart, I was really surprised when I realized that I could not differentiate between p/b, t/d, and k/...
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13 votes
4 answers
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Why do tone and simple syllable structure appear to be correlated?

I happen to have been struggling to learn a bit of Mandarin Chinese lately, and it's been my first attempt to really deal with tones to any significant extent. I find distinguishing tones quite ...
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13 votes
4 answers
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Which languages other than Chinese have apical vowels?

Which languages other than some Chinese languages have apical vowels? The "apical vowels" are the i in zi, ci, si (in IPA: z̩ (also seen as ɿ)) and ʐ̩ (also seen as ʅ). They are basically buzzed ...
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13 votes
2 answers
932 views

Has there been any research into the phonetics of ventriloquism?

I have always been impressed by the skills of ventriloquists - and I've been wondering lately whether anyone has done any work looking at the acoustic or articulatory properties of the speech of ...
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13 votes
3 answers
2k views

Is there an IPA character for the sympathetic sucking in sound?

Is there an IPA symbol for the sound you might make when you burn yourself or someone tells you a story about an injury they have—when you suck your breath quickly through your teeth with your ...
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13 votes
2 answers
4k views

Is there a difference between /ɕ/ and /sʲ/?

Are /ɕ/ and /ʑ/ simply shorthand for /sʲ/ and /zʲ/ as with many of the possible diacritic combinations in IPA or are they different sounds? If they are the same, is there any good reason to use one ...
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13 votes
1 answer
395 views

Whispering in languages heavily dependent on pitch or phonation distinctions

When whispering in English all (segmental) phonological distinctions can – as far as I am aware – still be made, which may be due to redundancy (or simply because voicing is optional). I even ...
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13 votes
1 answer
578 views

What's the difference between a syllabic consonant and a schwa followed by a consonant?

I'm a native speaker of a language which has syllabic consonants, here are the examples კლდე/k'lde, [kʼl̩dɛ] "cliff" ქრთამი/krtami, [kʰɾ̩tʰami] "bribe" ბრძენი/brdzeni, [bɾ̩d͡zɛni] &...
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13 votes
3 answers
2k views

What's the evidence for and against isochrony?

The question What evidence is currently known that favors or disfavors the hypothesis that a regular beat of some kind—that is, an “isochrony”—plays some important role in languages? I've run across ...
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12 votes
2 answers
3k views

Why IPA does not indicate "soft" consonants in English?

I am a native Russian speaker. Sometimes I encounter English speakers who are trying to learn Russian and wonder how to pronounce "soft" consonants. At the same time while learning English I noticed ...
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12 votes
3 answers
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What's the difference between /ɪ/ and /i(ː)/?

In English there's the vowel sound /ɪ/ as in "bin" and /i(ː)/ as in "been". My girlfriend, who is Greek, cannot perceive the difference, but to me they sound very different. Is the difference ...
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Non-African Click Languages

Paralinguistic clicks are quite common across world's languages. But paralinguistic clicks usually appears as ideophones. But why is Africa the only continent that uses click consonants? Are there any ...
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12 votes
4 answers
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Why are /t/ and /d/ sometimes affricated before /ɹ/ in English?

I saw a post on ELU about a more general question, Softened pronunciation of consonants, such as “t” or “s” followed by “y”. The question was answered in regard to palatalization, especially for ...
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12 votes
1 answer
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Is there any other language containing the sound of the "evanescent l" in Venetian?

Venetian (the Italo-Romance language spoken in the area of Italy roughly corresponding to the Veneto region) has a weird sound which is usually called l evanescente (evanescent l). It varies ...
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12 votes
1 answer
2k views

IPA transcription of the American English "bunched" /r/

There are 2 common articulations of /r/ and /r̩/ in American English, one retroflex, and the other dorsal. This phone is called the molar or bunched r. It can be described roughly as a back-palatal or ...
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12 votes
1 answer
257 views

Are there guides to analysing phonetic data in R?

I need references like papers/articles/books by and for people who use R for analysing phonetic data. I have Harrington's (2008) Phonetic Analysis of Speech Corpora, and it's great, but a lot of other ...
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12 votes
1 answer
334 views

Are there any alternatives to Source-Filter theory?

The linear source-filter theory of speech production ( Fant, G. (1970) Acoustic Theory of Speech Production; Stevens and House (1961)) is very useful for understanding speech synthesis and a ...
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12 votes
3 answers
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Common problems in second language pronunciation

Transfer of some phonetic/phonological features from the first language to a second language is common in second language acquisition. For example, aspiration is not phonemic in English. Voiceless ...
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11 votes
9 answers
8k views

Textbook suggestions for syntax, semantics/pragmatics and phonetics/phonology

I am coming to linguistics from a completely non-linguistic background; I was a mathematician. Next year I will start taking some serious (Master's level) linguistics courses and I would like to have ...
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

How does the nonsense word "frabjous" conform to English phonotactics?

I am aware that this question is rather more complex than I am treating it, but I am looking for a few general rules (e.g. basic phonotactic constraints) that would lead to the conclusion that the ...
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11 votes
7 answers
22k views

Why are consonants distinguished differently than vowels?

Consonants are distinguished normally by features like place of articulation, manner of articulation, voiced/voiceless, etc. while vowels are usually distingusihed by stuff like tongue's position and ...
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11 votes
2 answers
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How languages compare with the number of different syllables from all words?

Note: I am not a linguist, please provide any corrections for terminology. I would like to find some approximate data (if it exists) comparing several languages with the number of different syllables ...
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11 votes
2 answers
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What is the difference between /ʎ/ and /l̠ʲ/?

As far as I can find the descriptions it appears that they're the same. Why would 2 different IPA characters used then?
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11 votes
5 answers
2k views

Is it feasible to create an IPA adaptation for cats?

I was trying to transcribe my cat's noises into IPA. For example, her wanting to be petted is like [njæː] or [njaː]. But purring doesn't seem to fit any existing notation, except maybe [ʜ]. Has anyone ...
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11 votes
2 answers
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Can a stop be both voiced and aspirated?

One day while discussing things with my friends, we came across the topic of trying to pronounce the sound [gh]. No such symbol actually exists in the IPA to my knowledge, but hypothetically it would ...
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