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AUDITORY PHONETICS

Auditory phonetics is the field involved in determining how


speech sounds are perceived by human ear. Ear is the organ of hearing
and balance. Auditory phonetics is dealing with two distinct operations
which are closely interrelated and influence each other: The audition
proper that is the perception of sounds by our auditory tract and the
transforming of the information into a neural sign and its sending to the
brain. On the other hand, it deals with the analysis of the information
by the brain which eventually leads to the decoding of the message.
(Parviz, Birjandi. 2005).
O'Connor (1973) reports that since the ear has three main parts,
namely the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear, it has three
major functions. These functions are to collect stimuli, to transmit them
, and to analyze them , in the same order of each parts. More
specifically what the inner ear does the most important thing, that
mainly because it analyses the component frequencies of the complex
wave then transmitting them to the brain via the auditory nerve.
Gimson.(1989) indicates that hearing mechanism should be
tackled from two points of view : First, the physiological mechanism
that reacts against the acoustic stimuli. Second, the psychological activity
in which the brain is stimulated by the selected acoustic information that
ears tr- ansnmit.
'Psychologically speaking, Liberman (1957) pointed out that hearer
and perception are processes in which information is extracted from;
sound complex and interpreted by the listener not just with referent the
sound patterns that are developed during previous experiences with
sound units.
Gimson (1989) clarifies this by starting that hearing mechanism
plays a vital part in monitoring our speech production in a way that
information about the nature of the sound complex, being produced, is
continually fed - back to the brain through the speaker's own auditory
channels.

THE STRUCTURE OF HUMAN EAR


Parviz, Pirjandi. (2005) shows that the human ear consists of three sections: the
outer, middle, and inner ear.

1-THE OUTER EAR


The outer ear is made up of the auricle, or pinna, and the outer
auditory canal. The auricle is the curved part of the ear attached to the
side of the head by small ligaments and muscles. It does not play an
essential in audition, which is proved by the fact that the removing of
the auricle does not damage our auditory capacity. Auricle plays a
protective role for the rest of the ear. The outer auditory canal, which
measures about (3 cm) in length, is a tubular structure full of air playing
a double role. It protects the middle ear, and it functions as a resonator

for the sound waves that enter our auditory system. Sound
waves are channeled down the canal and cause the ear-drum to
vibrate.

2- THE MIDDLE EAR


The middle ear is a narrow, air - filled chamber that extends
vertically for about (15mm) and for nearly the same distance
horizontally. It is situated behind the ear-drum. It contains a chain of
three very tiny bones the mallet, the anvil, and the stirrup, which is the
tiniest bone in the body being smaller than a grain of rice .These tiny
bones are connected to the ear-drum ( a sensitive membrane to which
the sound waves are directed from outside and which vibrate).Vibration
of the eardrum moves the mallet, the notion of the hammer moves the
anvil, which is in turn moves the stirrup.
The eardrum separates the outer ear from the inner ear. A narrow
passageway called Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the throat
to the throat and the back of the nose. The Eustachian tube helps keep
the eardrum equalizes the pressure between the middle and the outer

ear. For example, if a person travels from sea level to a mountain top,
where air pressure is lower, the eardrum may cause pain because the air
pressure in the middle ear becomes greater than the air pressure in the
outer ear. When a person, for example, yawns, the Eustachian tube
opens and some of the air in the middle ear passes into the throat,
adjusting the pressure in the middle ear to match the pressure in the
outer ear. This equalizing of pressure on both sides of the eardrum
prevents it from rupturing.

THE INNER EAR


The inner ear plays an essential part in our body's capacity of
keeping its balance. Also; it has an essential role in the process of
hearing the chain of bones in the middle ear leads into the convoluted
structures of the inner ear, which contains organs of both hearing and
balance. The three main structure of the inner ear is the cochlea .The
cochlea is a completely enclosed gallery with rigid walls and filled with
liquid. It is looking like the shell of a snail. The broad end of the
cochlea connects with the middle ear. There are two openings from the
middle ear into the cochlea .The first one is the oval window whose
vibrations are transmitted to the fluid of the cochlea. The second
opening is the round window .It is covered with elastic membrane
which takes up the pressure changes in the fluid.
The information going from the cochlea to the brain differs from
the information arriving at the outer ear in five ways: One, the ear canal
amplifies some frequencies. Two, the ear-drum rejects some
frequencies and intensities. Three, the middle ear bones amplify the
vibrations of the ear-drum. Four, the difference in size between the
eardrum and the oval window makes the pressure at the latter is greater
than at the former. Five, the cochlea analyses the component'
frequencies of the complex wave.
The cochlea is divided into three fluid- filled canals: the vestibular,
the cochlear canal, and the tympanic canal. The partition >between the
cochlear canal and the tympanic canal is called the basilar membrane.
Inside the membrane .there is the organ of Corti. The sensory cells in
the organ of Corti have thousands of hair like projections that receive
sound vibrations from the middle ear and send them on to the brain by
the auditory nerve. In the brain, they are recognized and interpreted as
specific sounds.
The physiology of audition inside the inner ear can be described as
follows: the mechanical movement of the little bones (the mallet, the
anvil, and the stirrup) is transmitted through the oval window to the
liquid inside the snail _this causes the basilar membrane to vibrate. The

membrane is stiffer, which makes it vibrate differently depending on the


pitch of the sounds that is received The cells of the organ of Corti
convert these vibrations into neural signals that are transmitted by the
auditory nerves to the central receptor and controller the entire process
of the brain.
The human ear can only hear sounds having certain amplitudes
and frequencies. If the amplitudes and frequencies of the sound waves
are lower than the range perceptible by the ear, they are simply not
heard .There are four major perceptual parameters that we tend
consciously to perceive and interpret. These parameters or features are
the quality of the sound, its pitch, and its loudness and its length.

1-The

Quality of English Sounds

The listener's perception of sound quality is determined by the


way in which the speaker's vibrators and resonators function
together. (Gimson, 1989), That is , the quality of any vowel sound is
determined by its acoustic spectrum. It seems likely that differences
in size and shape of the individual's vocal cavities, structure of the
vocal folds and control of their vibration, and air-flow

characteristics all have an effect on voice quality. Therefore, the


quality of vowels is also related to the higher formants of their voiced
sounds (Catfors, 1991).

2-The

Pitch of English Sounds

The pitch of a speech sound is an auditory sensation which places


sounds on a scale going from low to high (Roach, 1992). It depends
mostly on the frequency of the vibration of the vocal folds . (Ladefoged,
1993).

3- The

Loudness Of English Sounds

Loudness is the auditory impression of the amount of energy


present the sound (Roach , 1992). It is a term for perceived intensity .
Actually , it depends on the size of the existing variation in air-pressure .
In turn , it is related to the amplitude of the vibration . Therefore, any
increase in the amplitude of the vibration will result in an impression of
greater loudness.

4-The Length of English Sounds


In addition to previous different auditory impressions of quality,
pitch and loudness, sounds may appear to a listener to be of different
length or duration. The term, length' is used to refer to a subjective
perception of how long a sound lasts. The term 'duration ', on the other
hand , is used for the physical objective measure of line . For instance,
if any one listens to the syllables in /bit/ and /bi t/ and judges that the

first one contains a short vowel, whereas the vowel in the second one is
long his judgment will be built, then, on vowel length.(Roach , 1992).

References

Birjandi, parviz .( 2005). An Introduction To Phonetics .


Tehran,Ira;. Bazarcheh ketaab , Enghelab Avenue.
Gimson . (2001). Gimsons Pronunciation of English . London:
Edward Arnold.
Ladefoged , Peter.( 2006). A Course In Phonetics . Los
Angeles: University of California.
O'connor, J.D. (1973). Phonetics . Britain : Hazel Watson and
Viny Limited.
Roach, peter .(1992 ). English Phonetics and Phonology .
Cambridge University Press.