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Branches of Phonetics

Phonetics is not a new science. It was known to the ancient Greeks and to the ancient Hindus. The scientists of that time were concerned with speech sounds only. Phonetics, as an independent science began to develop in western Europe and in Russia only in the 19th century. There was considerable progress and growth in the 20th century - new concepts sprang up, new theories and new schools came into existence, new methods of investigation were developed.

Some new branches of phonetics also appeared. The most important of these are special phonetics and general pho­netics.

Special phonetics may be subdivided into descriptive phonetics and historical phonetics. Descriptive phonetics is concerned with the study of the phonetic structure of one language only, in its static form, at a particular period, synchronically. Historical pho­netics studies the phonetic structure of a lan­guage in its historical development, diachronically.

General phonetics is based on the extensive material which the special phonetics of a great number of languages provides; it is also based on other sciences, such as physics, biology, psychology, speech pathology, etc. On the one hand, general phonetics is based on the data of special phonetics; on the other hand, general phonetics provides valuable theoretical material which enables us to understand clearly and to interpret correctly the different phonetic phenomena of concrete languages.

Experimental and comparative phonetics are frequently considered to be either branches of phonetics or methods of investigation.

Phonetics has a wide sphere of application. It is used in teaching children to read and write their mother tongue. A knowledge of phonetics is indispensable in teaching and learn­ing foreign languages. Phonetics is also used in teaching deaf-mutes to speak, and, in correcting speech defects, in telephony, in broadcasting, in training actors, teachers, singers, etc.

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