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BA English Language and French

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
The Sounds of Language

Unit code LELA10322
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Linguistics & English Language
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The focus of this course is speech sounds. We will learn how sounds are made, how they can be described, analysed and transcribed, and how the sounds of English differ from those of other languages. We will also consider how sounds can be organized into higher-level structures, and we will study the relationship between sound and meaning.


 The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:

  • to introduce students to fundamental notions in phonetics and phonology
  • to provide experience in performing phonetic and phonological analysis
  • to provide extensive training in auditory transcription

Learning outcomes

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand fundamental concepts in phonetics and phonology, and apply them critically to analyse new data


 Provisional syllabus:

Week 1. The vocal tract

Week 2. Describing consonants. The International Phonetic Alphabet

Week 3. Consonants

Week 4. Vowels

Week 5. The syllable

Week 6. Abstraction, contrast, predictability

Week 7. Phonological processes

Week 8. Features and gestures

Week 9. Acoustics of speech

Week 10. Stress, tone and intonation

Week 11. Integrating phonetics & phonology with other fields of linguistics. Revision

Teaching and learning methods

 One 2h lectures a week and one 1h weekly tutorial.

E-learning: The Blackboard environment will provide: lecture slides, tutorial materials, reading assignments (beyond the main textbook), materials for exam preparation (e.g. mock exam), and additional exercises. We will also use the Blackboard discussion thread.

As part of the assessment, students will be asked to provide multiple-choice questions (with solutions) related to the course content. These questions will be collected into Blackboard quizzes that will serve as revision materials.

Knowledge and understanding

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand the basic mechanisms of speech production
  • Provide an articulatory description of speech sounds
  • Characterise the sounds of standard English (RP), and relate them to the inventories of other English dialects/other languages
  • Identify some phonological patterns (contrastive and complementary distribution, feature specification)
  • Characterise the differences between phonetics and phonology concerning the object and the method of study

Intellectual skills


By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Analyse new linguistic data (provide phonemic analysis, spot phonological patterns)
  • Apply selected phonetic and phonological methods to the study of other linguistic subfields, such as field linguistics or sociolinguistics

Practical skills

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Read phonetic transcription
  • Transcribe speech sounds

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • The students will develop time-management skills, as well as skills in independent study.

Employability skills

Students looking for employment in research will particularly benefit from learning about research methods in phonetics, and about how phonetic research can be integrated into studies across various linguistics subfields, such as phonological theory, or linguistic variation. The course will also be beneficial to students interested in non-academic career paths that require background in phonetics, including speech and language therapy and forensic phonetics. The course will provide essential skills required in such professions, such as phonetic transcription and phonetic analysis.

Assessment methods


Assessment task

Formative or summative


Weighting within unit

(if summative)

4 homework assignments


Coursework equivalent to 1,000 word assignment


Transcription exam (around week 7)




Final exam




Blackboard quizzes





Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or summative

Marks on home assignments


Marks on transcription quiz and final exam


General feedback on home assignments in lecture


Scores on Blackboard quizzes



Recommended reading

Zsiga, E.C., 2012. The sounds of language: an introduction to phonetics and phonology. John Wiley & Sons

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 1.5
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Patrycja Strycharczuk Unit coordinator

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