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Important Definitions

Page history last edited by Ronaldo Lima Jr 11 years, 4 months ago

On this page you will find de definition for some of the most important terms of Phonetics and Phonology by different authors.

To see definitions on vertually all phoonetics and phonology terminology, check out Peter Roach's Glossary (pdf).





  • The study of how sounds are produced and how the position of the mouth can be changed to produce different sounds (AVERY; EHRLICH, 1992);
  • The study of the physiological, aerodynamic, and acoustic characteristics of speech-sounds (CATFORD, 2001);
  • Phonetics can be viewed as a group of phonetics sciences, separated as anatomy and physiology of speech, articulatory phonetics (which often tends to deal with the identification and classification of individual sounds), acoustic phonetics (sometimes restricted to instrumental analysis and measurement of sound waves) and auditory or perceptual phonetics (CLARK; YALLOP; FLETCHER, 2007);
  • The science of speech sounds. The study of sound in human language (COLLINS; MEES, 2008);
  • É a ciência que apresenta os métodos para a descrição, classificação e transcrição dos sons da fala, principalmente aqueles sons utilizados na linguagem humana (CRISTÓFARO SILVA, 1998);
  • The study of speech sounds. It is a wide-ranging field, and it does not necessarily have a direct connection with the study of language itself. It deals with the physical reality of speech sounds (KELLY, 2000);
  • É o estudo dos sons em geral (KINDELL, 1997);
  • Phonetics is concerned with describing the speech sounds that occur in the languages of the world (LADEFOGED, 1993);
  • The study and description of the nature of the raw noises and silences of speech (PENNINGTON, 1996);
  • The comparatively straightforward business of describing the sounds that we use in speaking (ROACH, 2000);
  • Phonetics is the scientific study of speech. It has a long history, going back certainly to well over two thousand years ago. The central concerns in phonetics are the discovery of how speech sounds are produced, how they are used in spoken language, how we can record speech sounds with written symbols and how we hear and recognise different sounds (ROACH, 2009);
  • Parte da Linguística que se ocupa do levantamento de todos os sons produzidos pelos falantes - sons da fala - com vistas a viabilizar as distinções dialetais que caracterizam comunidades linguísticas (SIMÕES, 2003);
  • The study of the sounds of human language (YAVAŞ, 2006).




  • The study of how sounds pattern in languages (AVERY; EHRLICH, 1992);
  • The study of how sounds are organized into systems and utilized in languages (CATFORD, 2001);
  • Phonology is often said to be concerned with the organization of speech within specific languages, or with the systems and patterns of sounds that occur in particular languages (CLARK; YALLOP; FLETCHER, 2007);
  • How sounds pattern and function in a given language. The study of selection and patterns of sounds in a single language (COLLINS; MEES, 2008);
  • It is primarily concerned with how we interpret and systematize sounds. It deals with the system and pattern of the sounds which exist within particular languages (KELLY, 2000);
  • É o estudo da organização dos sons de uma determinada língua (KINDELL, 1997);
  • The description of the systems and patterns of sounds that occur in a language (LADEFOGED, 1993);
  • The study and description of the patterning of noises and silences of speech in regular ways within particular languages (PENNINGTON, 1996);
  • The study of the abstract side of the sounds of language (ROACH, 2000);
  • The most basic activity in phonology is phonemic analysis, in which the objective is to establish what the phonemes are and arrive at the phonemic inventory of the language (ROACH, 2009);
  • Parte da Linguística que se ocupa dos sons da língua, ou seja, levanta, classifica e estabelece as distinções básicas entre os fonemas de uma língua, visando à descrição de sua estrutura fônica (SIMÕES, 2003);
  • The patterning of sounds in a language (YAVAŞ, 2006).




  • The term phoneme has become very widely used for a contrastive unit of sound in language: however, a term is also needed for a unit at the phonetic level, since there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between units at the two levels. The term phone has been used for a unit at the phonetic level, but it has to be said that the term (though useful) has not become widely used; this must be at least partly due to the fact that the word is already used for a much more familiar object (ROACH, 2009).




  • A contrastive or distinctive sound within a language. It recognizes functional differences (CLARK; YALLOP; FLETCHER, 2007);
  • Sound differences that distinguish words (CELCE-MURCIA; BRINTON; GOODWIN, 1996);
  • The contrastive units of sound which can be used to change meaning (COLLINS; MEES, 2008);
  • The different sounds within a language (KELLY, 2000);
  • One of a set of abstract units that can be used for writing a language down in a systematic and unambiguous way (LADEFOGED, 1993);
  • A phone or group of phones which contrasts with another phoneme in a minimal pair (PENNINGTON, 1996);
  • Virtually all theories of phonology hold that spoken language can be broken down into a string of sound units (phonemes), and that each language has a small, relatively fixed set of these phonemes (ROACH, 2009).




  • Sounds which count as alternative ways of saying a phoneme may be termed variants or allophones (CLARK; YALLOP; FLETCHER, 2007);
  • Sounds that that are perceptibly different but do not distinguish words (CELCE-MURCIA; BRINTON; GOODWIN, 1996);
  • Each phoneme is therefore really composed of a number of different sounds which are interpreted as one meaningful unit by a native speaker of the language. This range is termed allophonic variation, and the variants themselves are called allophones (COLLINS; MEES, 2008);
  • Though there may be subtle differences in articulation, allophones do not lead to a change in meaning (KELLY, 2000);
  • A variant of a phoneme. The allophones of a phoneme form a set of sounds that (1) do not change the meaning of a word, (2) are all very similar to one another, and (3) occur in phonetic contexts different from one another (LADEFOGED, 1993);
  • Two different phones which are phonetic variations (or allophones) of the same phoneme (PENNINGTON, 1996);
  • Different realisations of phonemes (ROACH, 2000);
  • Central to the concept of the phoneme is the idea that it may be pronounced in many different ways. In theory a phoneme can have an infinite number of allophones, but in practice for descriptive purposes we tend to concentrate on a small number that occur most regularly (ROACH, 2009).




AVERY, P.; EHRLICH, S. (1992) Teaching American English pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


CATFORD, J. C. A practical guide to phonetics. (2001) 2 Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


CELCE-MURCIA, M.; BRINTON, D. M.; GOODWIN, J. M. (1996) Teaching pronunciation: a reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Nova Iorque: Cambridge University Press.


CLARK, J.; YALLOP, C.; FLETCHER, J. (2007) An introduction to phonetics and phonology. Massachusetts, Oxford e Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.


COLLINS, B.; MEES, I. M. (2008) Practical phonetics and phonology: a resource book for students. Oxon: Routledge.


CRISTÓFARO SILVA, T. (1998) Fonética e fonologia do português: roteiro e guia de exercícios. São Paulo: Editora Contexto.


KELLY, G. (2000) How to teach pronunciation. Harlow: Longman.


KINDELL, G. E. (1997) Guia de análise fonológica. 3 Ed. Brasília, DF: Sociedade Internacional de Linguística.


LADEFOGED, P. (1993) A course in phonetics. 3rd Ed. Fort Worth, TX: Hartcout Brace College Publishers.


PENNINGTON, M. C. (1996) Phonology in English language teaching. Londres: Addison Wesley Longman Limited.


ROACH, P. (2000) English phonetics and phonology: a practical course. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.


ROACH, P. (2009) English phonetics and phonology glossary: a little encyclopaedia of phonetics. Available online at http://www.cambridge.org/elt/peterroach/resources/Glossary.pdf retrieved on Aug. 24, 2009.


SIMÕES, D. (2003) Fonologia em nova chave: considerações metodológicas sobre a fala e a escrita. Rio de Janeiro, H. P. Comunicação Editora.


YAVAŞ, M. (2006) Applied English Phonology. Oxoford, Massachusetts e Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.

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