Phonetics and Phonology According to the Wikipedia on-line


According to the Wikipedia on-line encyclopaedia, phonetics is the study of '' sounds and the human voice'' It concentrates and is concerned with the sounds of speech, including their ''audition, production and perception...' (Wikipedia on-line encyclopaedia). Wikipedia goes on to say that there are three main branches of phonetics: Articulatory (concerned with lips positions and movements) ' it uses techniques which test the way different sounds are produced when made using different parts of the mouth (TEFL teacher training ' teaching pronunciation and phonology); acoustic ' the properties of sound waves; auditory ' speech perception.

Phonology is a sub-category of linguistics and studies the sounds of a specific language (Wikipedia). For example, by placing different stress and intonation on different parts of a word or sentence, meanings can vary, and the perception by the listener can vary. There are various techniques for teaching, and in a language class they are very important, so that students can learn correctly.

During a normal speech pattern, there is an intonation known as rise/fall intonation. Basically this means that the pitch of the speaker's voice gradually rises to the middle of the sentence or word, and then drops at the end. This generally means that the speaker has finished what they have to say. (TEFL Teacher training ' teaching pronunciation and phonology). In a question, the intonation rises until the penultimate syllable, and then drops again to indicate that a question is being asked and an answer is required.

The second pattern of speech is the fall/rise intonation. This pattern can often indicate surprise or disagreement. It can also indicate that the speaker hasn't quite finished what they want to say. In this pattern, the pitch starts off low, and then rises on the last syllable to indicate they are going to continue.

The third pattern is a level intonation. This can indicate that the speaker may not really want to communicate or doesn't have too much to say.

In the English language quite often written and spoken words can look different. In a dictionary, when a word is listed, there is often in brackets a word next to the actual word which is written in different language. This is made up of the phonemic alphabet which shows how to pronounce the word when it is spoken which can be different to how it is spelt. For example, in the phonemic alphabet the letter 'n' in 'nun' looks like /nʌn/; vowels such as /u:/ (blue) are written as /blu:/; whereas the sound 'ea' in 'treasure' is written 'ʒ' as in /treʒə/. (TEFL teacher training ' teaching pronunciation and phonology).

It can be difficult for a teacher to teach the phonemic alphabet, as for a native speaker of English, the sounds are generally not taught in school. However, in order for students of the language to learn correctly, and to be able to look up words in the dictionary and learn their pronunciation, phonetics is an important aspect of teaching the language.

Techniques for teaching can include getting the students to practice drilling techniques; choral repetition and also getting them to practice sounding words by putting their hand to their throat and feeling how sounds vibrate in the throat. This technique could be taught as a game with each student practicing a different sound with the teacher going 'round the class to get them to say a complete sentence.

Despite the fact that this article merely scratches the surface of phonetics and phonology it is an important part of teaching. Some teachers will devote a whole lesson to pronunciation work, however from the students' point of view; a more balanced approach would probably be more beneficial ' and less boring! By allocating time during each lesson, as part of the lesson plan, the class can learn to pronounce as they go along.