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Phonetics is the scientific study of speech sounds.

It is a fundamental branch o
f Linguistics and itself has three different aspects: Articulatory Phonetics des
cribes how vowels and consonants are produced or articulated in various parts of t
he mouth and throat; Acoustic Phonetics a study of how speech sounds are transmi
tted: when sound travels through the air from the speaker s mouth to the hearer s ea
r it does so in the form of vibrations in the air; Auditory Phonetics a study of
how speech sounds are perceived: looks at the way in which the hearer s brain dec
odes the sound waves back into the vowels and consonants originally intended by
the speaker.
Received Pronunciation (RP) is a form of pronunciation of the English language w
hich has traditionally been the prestige British accent. RP is a form of English
English (English English is a term that has been applied to the English languag
e as spoken in England.), sometimes defined as the educated spoken English of sou
theastern England. It is often taught to non-native speakers; used as the standar
d for English in most books on general phonology and phonetics; and represented
in the pronunciation schemes of most British dictionaries.
The Sounds of English and Their Representation: In English, there is no one-to-o
ne relation between the system of writing and the system of pronunciation. The a
lphabet which we use to write English has 26 letters but in English there are ap
proximately 44 speech sounds. To represent the basic sound of spoken languages l
inguists use a set of phonetic symbols called the International Phonetic Alphabe
t (IPA). The chart below contains all of the IPA symbols used to represent the s
ounds of the English language. This is the standard set of phonemic symbols for
English (RP). Speech can be seen as controlled breathing. An utterance begins w
ith a breath. As we exhale, we modify the flow of air in a variety of ways to pr
oduce the various sounds of speech the individual segments of sound or phonemes
as well as the supra-segmental or prosodic features of stress and intonation.
As the breath passes through the larynx, it passes the vocal folds. If we choos
e to, we can allow these to be set in motion by the air. The resulting vibratio
n is the source of our voice. Some phonemes are voiced in this way, while other
s are voiceless. All vowels are voiced. Consonants are either voiced or voicele
ss. The following explanation focuses on the way in which consonants are articul
ated. There are three characteristics to each consonant: the manner of articula
tion, the place of articulation and whether or not the sound is voiced.