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The phonetic system of a language




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Language is the immediate actuality of thought and the most important means of communication. It exists in two main speech forms: oral and written. In oral speech the substance is phonic, in written speech the substance is graphic. The sound substance forms units of the phonetic system of a language.

The phonetic system of a language is a set of phonetic units arranged in an orderly way to replace each other in a given framework. It contains two systems, or levels – segmental and suprasegmental, or prosodic, each of which is a specially organized language system with a certain number of its units. Segmental units are elementary sounds, vowels and consonants, which form the vocalic and consonantal subsystems. Prosodic units are syllables, rhythmic units, and intonation groups, utterances, which form subsystems of pitch, stress, rhythm, tempo, and pauses.

The sound substance is a medium in which the whole system of language is embodied. Segmental and prosodic units serve to form and differentiate units of other subsystems of language, the lexical and grammatical units. The modifications of words and their combination into utterances are first of all sound phenomena. The grammatical form of a verb can be changed only by changing the sounds which compose them. By changing the prosodic structure (intonation) of an utterance one changes the meaning of the utterance.

Phonetics studies the sound system of the language that is segmental phonemes, word stress, syllabic structure and intonation. It is primarily concerned with expression level. It is important in the study of language. It is the most fundamental branch of linguistics; it occupies the equal importance with grammar and lexicology. Phonetics has two main divisions: on the one hand, phonology, the study of the sound patterns of the languages, of how a spoken language functions as a ”code”, and on the other, the study of substance, that carries the code. Before analyzing the linguistic function of phonetic units we need to know how the vocal mechanism acts in producing oral speech and what methods are applied in investigating the material form of the languages that is substance. Human speech is the result of a highly complicated series of events. The formation of the concepts takes place at a linguistic level that is in the brain of the speaker; this stage may be called psychological. The message formed within the brain is transmitted along the nervous system to the speech organs. The human brain controls the behaviour of the articulating organs which effects in a particular pattern of speech sounds. This second stage may be called physiological. The third stage may be called physical or acoustic. Any communication requires a listener, as well as a speaker. So, the last stages are the reception of the sound waves by the listener’s hearing apparatus, the transmission of the spoken message through the nervous system to the brain and the linguistic interpretation of the information conveyed.





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