2The Sphere of Speech

2.1. Linguistic studies of speech

The scientific study of speech, found at the intersection of a number of disciplines such as Physiology, Electronics, Psychology and Linguistics, is a very rich field. It forms the basis of a large number of practical applications, including speech pathology, language teaching and speech processing (SP), which is the focus of this chapter. Two key disciplines are at the heart of studies in this area: phonetics and phonology.

2.1.1. Phonetics

Phonetics is a field that deals with the scientific study of speech sounds. It provides methods for the description, classification and transcription of speech sounds [CRY 91]. As a branch of the natural sciences, it examines speech sounds from physical, physiological and psychological points of view. Phonetics involves making parallels between sounds in human language and looking at the physiological, physical and psychological constraints which have shaped these sounds. For a general introduction to phonetics, the reader can refer to a number of excellent works, including those of [LÉO 05, LAD 01, HAR 99, CAR 74].

Historically, the interest in describing the sounds of speech goes back to antiquity. It is widely thought that the Phoenicians developed the first system of phonetic transcription or alphabet on the east coast of the Mediterranean between 1700 and 1500 BC. The traces of this alphabet are still visible in some alphabets that exist today. As for the first actual phonetic ...

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