Phonetics - Phonology Phonetics is described as the physical property of speech sound, their production and their transcription into a written form, especially sounds that are created when we speak a language. Phonology is also concerned with the way in which sound is produced in speech, but is more often used when referring to the whole sound system of a given language. This can involve rhythm, stress and intonation and can relay meaning behind a message rather than just the analysis of sounds themselves. Both phonetics and phonology have been studied internationally for centuries.
The creation of sound, and how it can be translated into written word, is very different from how many of us think about speech and the way in which we convert written word to spoken word. This has to do with the fact that the generic alphabet does not necessarily convey the way in which the sound of a word is to be produced. In fact, the way in which you would expect to sound out a lot of english
words based on how they are spelt, is very different to how they sound. For example, for the word ‘beauty’, you must have prior knowledge that the ‘eau’ combination makes a ‘y-oo’ sound and the ‘y’ isn’t as in ‘yes’ or as in ‘sky’. This offers much confusion, particularly to those unfamiliar with the language such as ESL students.
The solution to this problem came about in the late 1800’s, when an International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) was created. It was based primarily on the Latin Alphabet and was introduced by the International Phonetic Association as a standardized way in which speech can be translated to the written word, based solely on how each sound was produced. There is only one symbol used per sound, rather than when the english
language (for example) uses a combination of letters to create a particular sound (or phoneme) eg ‘ph’ or ‘tion’.
Phonology requires some sort of understanding of phonetics as it is necessary to recognize which sounds in conversation, direction, order, explanation, or any other form of speech, are significant to the overall message or meaning that is being conveyed. This can be difficult for the non native speaker. There are intricacies such as connected words, stress on sounds and intonation within whole sentences which can mean that the intention of the speech is not the same as what can be literally transcribed. For example, without being informed of any context, ‘She looked amazing’ does not have any meaning unless you are aware of the sentence’s phonology. If there is a rise and fall of intonation, it could be that it was simply a passing comment. If there was a fall then rise of intonation, it could be that the speaker was surprised by this. If the second ‘a’ in amazing was drawn out, it may be to make a point, or that the speaker was being sarcastic.
For an ESL student, phonology and phonetics can be a stumbling block. Many other languages do not use the same phonemes as the english
language. It is also likely that stress and intonation patterns are different. A good teacher will recognize that how these difficulties can be overcome, and will tailor good lesson plans accordingly.