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SPE8151 : MSc Phonetics I

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Ghada Khattab
  • Teaching Assistant: Mr Sascha Schafer
  • Owning School: Education, Communication & Language Sci
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 5
Semester 2 Credit Value: 5
ECTS Credits: 5.0


This module aims to provide students with an introduction to the study of phonetics. It is devoted to learning about the human vocal mechanism, the sounds it can produce, and they form the phonological systems of various languages. The module then investigates varieties within English and how different groups of speakers use sounds differently, in different social contexts. A central aim is to look at how phonetics plays an important role when assessing, treating people with communication difficulties. The online resources offered to students during the module ensure that they can refer to them throughout the programme, beyond in order to keep transcription skills up-to-date

1. to introduce the basic principles of sound production and perception;
2. to give practice in categorising, producing, and transcribing all the sounds of the world’s languages in isolation and connected speech, in typical and disordered speech;
3. to introduce the sound system of English and the main phonotactic and phonological rules;
4. to raise awareness of sociolinguistic variation in English and examine differences across accents, to enable them to be transcribed using narrow phonetic transcription.

In relation to HCPC Standards of Proficiency, this module addresses aspects of the following standards (in some cases when combined with other modules):
3.3 understand both the need to keep skills and knowledge up to date and the importance of career-long learning
5.1 understand the requirement to adapt practice to meet the needs of different groups and individuals
8.5 be aware of the characteristics and consequences of verbal and non-verbal communication and how this can be affected by factors such as age, culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status and spiritual or religious beliefs.
13.1 understand the structure and function of the human body, together with knowledge of health, disease, impairment, and dysfunction relevant to their profession.
13.8 understand linguistics and phonetics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and all levels of typical processing
13.11 understand sociology in relation to the practice of speech and language therapy, including its application to educational, health and workplace settings and within multi-cultural societies
14.7 be able to administer, record, score and interpret a range of published and self-generated assessment tools to describe and analyse service users’ abilities and needs using, where appropriate, phonetic transcription, linguistic analysis, instrumental analysis and psycholinguistic assessment (covered throughout the programme)
14.9 be able to analyse and critically evaluate the information collected

Outline Of Syllabus

Most of the first semester is devoted to learning about the human vocal mechanism, the sounds it can produce, & how those sounds can be classified. In tutorials you will learn to distinguish & produce most the sounds of the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), using examples from a wide range of languages, & many accents of English.

Semester 1:

Introduction to phonetics. Speech and writing; The IPA and transcription
Consonants: place of articulation
Consonants: manner of articulation
Consonants: complex articulations
Phonation, aspiration and VOT
Initiation: airstream mechanisms, non-pulmonic consonants
Cardinal vowels and vowel quadrilateral
Connected speech processes Week 9 Sound system of English
Introduction to Sociophonetics I: main differences between accents of English
Sociophonetics II: regional accents transcription

Semester 2 work builds on the articulatory foundations of Semester 1, focusing on how speech sounds are used in fluent speech, & how different groups of speakers use sounds differently.

Semester 2:

Introduction to Phonology I: Minimal pairs, features, phonological system in SLT
PhonotacticsPhonology II: Syllables, phonotactics, morphophonologysyllables, features, features in SLT
Prosody and Intonation I: Stress and Tone/Intonation
Prosody and Intonation II: Rhythm, speech rate, vocal settings
Phonological assessment of disordered speech Week 6 Phonological cases I
Phonological cases II Week 8 Phonological cases III
IPA transcription and production, Ear training on consonants
IPA transcription and production Ear training on vowels
IPA revision Ear training on non-pulmonic consonants

In relation to the RCSLT curriculum guidance, the module covers aspects related to phonetics and linguistics (4.4.1) including phonetics and clinical application, general linguistics and clinical applications (phonology) and sociolinguistics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:0012 lectures in semester 1 and 6 lectures in semester 2.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion128:0028:00Preparation for quizzes in semester 1 and group project and dictation in semester 2.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical181:0018:0010 IPA ear training and transcription practice sessions in semester 1 and 8 in semester 2.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops61:006:006 sessions on phonological analysis of children's speech.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce and define key concepts in phonetics and phonology. Students are encouraged to engage in the construction of knowledge during the lecture in form of teamwork tasks and discussions. The sessions facilitate self-directed learning by raising awareness of additional self-study material (provided on Canvas) and relevant literature.

Practicals are designed to put the acquired knowledge into practice. Students gain a better understanding of the variability within non-pathological sound productions by collaborating with different instructors. The principal aim of the sessions is maximal student engagement. Transcription and production skills are trained to improve the students’ command of the IPA.

If PiP hours should have to be reduced because of the Covid-19 situation, lecture material can in such a scenario be provided in an asynchronous online mode of delivery, and tutorials in a synchronous online format.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Lab exercise601M20Two, 30 minute online quizzes worth 12.5% each.
Aural Examination602A30Phonetic Dictation - IN-HOUSE CLASS TEST organised by School
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M504000 words for a group of 2 or 5000 for a group of 3.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The short online quizzes assess knowledge of key principles of phonetic analysis
The group project requires students to exercise objective listening skills, and to explore their understanding of the factors that govern variability in speech.
The May class test assesses students' abilities to transcribe isolated and running speech accurately using the IPA conventions.

As all the assessments in this module assess key skills that are required for the theoretical and applied aspects of the course, all components of this module must be passed and no compensation is available

Reading Lists