LING215-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020

Phonetics: The sounds of speech

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 February 2020
End Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 February 2020
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 29 May 2020


This course is about phonetics - understanding how speech sounds are made. In the first part of the course, we learn how people articulate sounds. In the second part, we learn how to measure speech sounds using computer software. We will also learn how these skills can help us understand important issues in accent change, forensic linguistics, and speech pathology.

We are linguistic animals and we communicate primarily using sound.  Speech is our most common form of communication; speech plays a huge role in our everyday lives.   This course is about understanding speech.  In the first part of the course, we think carefully about how we produce sound, how the various muscles we use combine in order to create different sounds and how these sounds combine in turn to form speech (i.e. articulatory phonetics).  When we produce speech, we make changes to the air molecules around us (this is what we ‘hear’) and so in tandem with exploring speech articulation, on this course we will also learn about how we can measure and interpret changes in the air caused by speech (i.e. acoustic phonetics).  Because speech plays such a large part in our lives, it is difficult to discuss the properties of speech in isolation and so in the second part of this course, we explore connections between phonetics and other areas of linguistics.  Finally, we look at how an understanding of phonetics can impact on real world events.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will:
- Understand the central principles of acoustic and articulatory phonetics
- Be familiar with using new types of software to analyse speech
- Be able to transcribe speech in detail using the IPA

As a student in this course you will not only acquire subject specific skills, you will also acquire a number of transferrable skills.  For example, by the end of this course you will be able to...  

- Read critically and objectively
- Analyse phonetic data
- Meet deadlines
- Work under exam conditions

University Graduate Attributes

This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


Any 15 points at any level from LING.



Timetable 2020

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 10:00 - 11:00 - (23/3, 20/4, 4/5-25/5)
Ernest Rutherford 225 (17/2-16/3)
17 Feb - 29 Mar
20 Apr - 26 Apr
4 May - 31 May
Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 09:00 - 11:00 - (23/4-28/5)
Jack Erskine 010 Computer Lab (20/2-19/3)
17 Feb - 22 Mar
20 Apr - 31 May

Course Coordinator

Lynn Clark


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Learn quizzes 30% 8 Learn quizzes assessing engagement with academic literature, released weekly.
Take-home transcription task 03 May 2020 30%
Take-home acoustic task 29 May 2020 40% Due week 12

A class test will take place during the workshop slot in week 7.  This will be a short answer assessment testing your knowledge and understanding of the articulatory and acoustic properties of vowels and consonants of English (i.e. material covered in class between weeks 1-6).  This will account for 30% of your coursework mark overall.

There will be two take-home tasks, one due in week 4 and one due in week 6. These are worth 15% of the course each, and they will give you the opportunity to practice the sort of analytical techniques you will need to master to do well in the final assignment. You will have one week to do each take-home task.

At the end of the semester, you will hand in a written assignment in which you will have the chance to conduct some basic phonetic analysis and/or discuss theoretical issues in some depth.  This will account for 40% of your coursework mark overall.

Textbooks / Resources

Recommended Reading

Ladefoged, Peter; Vowels and consonants : an introduction to the sounds of languages; 2nd ed; Blackwell Pub., 2005.

Ladefoged, Peter. , Johnstone, Keith; A course in phonetics; 6th ed; Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2011.

There is no set textbook for this course, but these two textbooks are highly recommended and will be referred to from time to time.

Not all of the course will follow the structure of these textbooks.  You are therefore not required to buy a copy of these books.  They can be accessed in the library from the short-loan section.

Course links

Library portal
The course outline is available on LEARN (only for students enrolled in this course).

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $777.00

International fee $3,375.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see Language, Social and Political Sciences.

All LING215 Occurrences

  • LING215-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020