BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The Sounds of Language

Course unit fact file
Unit code LELA10322
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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


Topics covered will include:

  • Vocal tract anatomy
  • Articulatory properties of consonants and vowels
  • The International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Speech acoustics
  • Foundations of phonological analysis

Teaching and learning methods

One 2h lecture 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.

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:

  • Develop time-management skills as well as skills independent study skills.

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


In-class Transcription Test



Final Exam



Blackboard Quizzes




Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or summative

Exam marks


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 165.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ricardo Bermudez-Otero Unit coordinator

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