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Branches of Phonetics according to the subject and area of study.
Traditionally phonetics is divided intogeneral phonetics which studies the complex nature of phonetic phenomena and formulates phonetic laws and principles and special phonetics which is concerned with the phonetic structure of a particular language. Admittedly, phonetic theories worked out by general phonetics are based on the data provided by special phonetics while special phonetics relies on the ideas of general phonetics to interpret phonetic phenomena of a particular language.
Special phonetics can be subdivided into descriptive and historical. Special descriptive phonetics studies the phonetic structure of the language synchronically, whilehistorical phonetics looks at it in its historical development, diachronically. The aim of historical phonetics is to trace and establish the successive changes in the phonetic system of a given language (or a language family) at different stages of its development. Historical phonetics is part of the history of the language. The study of the historical development of the phonetic system of a language helps to understand its present and predict its future.
Another important division of phonetics is into segmental phonetics, which is concerned with individual sounds (i.e. "segments" of speech) andsuprasegmental phonetics whose domain is the larger units of connected speech: syllables, words, phrases and text.
Phoneticians are also interested in the way in which sound phenomena function in a particular language. In other words, they study the abstract side of the sounds of language. The branch of phonetics concerned with the study of the functional (linguistic) aspect of speech sounds is called phonology. By contrast with phonetics, which studies all possible sounds that the human vocal apparatus can make, phonology studies only those contrasts in sound which make differences of meaning within language.
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