BA Linguistics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Experimental Phonetics

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA32021
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit is a hands-on exploration of the production and perception of speech sounds, with a focus on experimental methodology. We’ll cover the basic principles governing the relationship between articulation and acoustics, looking at the source of sound waves in the larynx and how that sound source is shaped by the vocal tract. Students will learn how to measure a variety of acoustic properties of speech, and how those measurements can be used as a tool to investigate questions in phonology, sociolinguistics, and second language acquisition. We’ll also explore how speech sound are perceived, and what factors influence the relationship between the acoustic signal and what the listener hears.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Phonology LELA20012 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Quantitative Methods in Language Sciences LELA20231 Pre-Requisite Recommended
The Sounds of Language LELA10322 Pre-Requisite Compulsory


The aim of this course unit is to:

  • Provide a strong foundation in the techniques involved in phonetic analysis.

Students will acquire an understanding of:

  • The main concepts employed in the acoustic analysis of speech sounds.
  • The design of phonetic experiments.
  • The use of phonetic analysis as a tool to answer broader research questions.


Representative examples of topics covered:

The Larynx

Stops and Fricatives

The Source-Filter Model

Vowel Quality

Liquids and Nasals

What is Sonority?

Categorical Perception


The Phonology-Phonetics Interface

Phonetics in Neurolinguistics

Forensic Phonetics

Teaching and learning methods

Integrated lecture and seminar content, focusing on a discovery-based approach to the material.

Readings, software tutorials, and additional exercises on Blackboard.

Individual meetings with project groups to provide additional support.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the relationship between articulation, acoustic signal, and perception of speech sounds.
  • Understand the relationship between phonetic measurements and hypotheses in phonology, sociolinguistics, and second language acquisition.

Intellectual skills

  • Pose well-formed research questions.
  • Read and interpret scientific articles.
  • Answer theoretical questions using scientific evidence and sound reasoning.

Practical skills

  • Measure the acoustic properties of speech relevant for answering research questions in linguistics.
  • Design and carry out scientific experiments.
  • Analyse and interpret experimental data.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Pose well-formed research questions.
  • Perform basic quantitative analysis and visualisation of data.
  • Write a scientific report.

Employability skills

Group/team working
In addition, students will have gained experiencing carrying out a multi-step project as a team, including navigating group dynamics and dividing workload equitably.
By the end of the semester, students will have gained experience designing and carrying out a scientific experiment and interpreting and writing up the results. Understanding how to ask questions, and how to go about finding the answers to those questions, is a fundamental skill for almost any professional-level job.

Assessment methods

Assessment Task

Formative or Summative


Reading Reports

Formative or Summative


Practical Exercises (Portfolio)

Formative or Summative


Group Project





Feedback methods

Optional written feedback on practical exercises (prior to portfolio submission) Formative
Written feedback on portfolio Formative and summative
Written feedback on project proposal Formative
Written feedback on project report Summative


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wendell Kimper Unit coordinator

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