Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech, or in the case of sign languages,the equivalent aspects of sign. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines language as “a system of conventional spoken or written symbols by means of which human beings , as members of social groups and participants in its culture, communicate.” The term phone means sound; therefore phonetics is the study of the sounds of the spoken form of the language. It is a science which studies the speech processes.

Writing as well as speaking skills are essential to achieve linguistic competence. Correct pronunciation is a very important aspect of language. In other words, how we speak has now become as important as what we speak.


The term phonemes refers to the segment of sound in a specified language. It distinguishes one word from the other. /p/ and /b/ are separate phonemes in English because they distinguish such words as pet and bet.

There are 44 speech sounds or phonemes. These phonemes are divided into vowels and consonants. Vowel sounds are known as vocoids and consonant sounds are known as contoids. There are 20 vowels sound and 24 consonants sound

Vowel are all voiced sounds. There is no articulation of organ of speech is required to say a vowel.Vowel sounds are classified as pure vowels(Monopthongs) and Diphthongs. Diphthongs are a combination of two short vowels. These vowel sounds change their quality continually.

Consonants are produced by a closure or narrowing of the air passage. 



The term allophone refers to the sound segments that are members of the same phoneme. A phoneme has several variants. These variants of phonemes are called allophones. 

For example: Cat, sick, kite are three distinctly articulated sound but they belong to the same phoneme(/k/) and are called allophone.


Long Vowels

ɔː horse
ɜː bird
Short Vowels

ɪ ship e head
æ hat o Pot
ʊ foot ə upper
ɒ sock (UK)
ʌ cup    

English Consonants


Stress, Rhythm and Intonation

Stress: Stress may be defined as the force which we utter a word.

Syllable: A syllable may be defined as a unit of pronunciation with one vowel sound and one or more consonants sound. Words may consist of one, two or three syllables.

Words with one syllable are called monosyllabic.

Red, hot, man, mark

Words with two syllables are known as disyllabic.

leader, remark

Words with more than two syllables are known polysyllabic.

beautiful, leadership, remarkable

Stressed Syllable

In disyllabic or polysyllabic words, one syllable is more prominent than the others. This syllable is called a stressed or accented syllable. The stresses syllable is loud, long in duration, and articulated clearly.

Primary stress and Secondary stress
In longer English words, there may be more than one stressed syllable. In any word, the syllable with the strongest stress is said to have primary stress. In the word, introduction. the third syllable, –duc- is uttered with more force.

In any disyllabic or polysyllabic word, the syllable that has relatively weak stress is said to have secondary stress. This indicates that this particular syllable is the next most prominent syllable. For example in the word Examination, primary stress is on    -na- while secondary stress is on -xa-


In a sentence of connected speech, some syllables are stresses while some syllables remain unstressed. This phenomenon gives the English language its characteristic rhythm.


Intonation refers to the rise and fall of the pitch according to the mood or relevance of information.


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