Why rethink phonetics?


Phonetics is the science of speech

You might not find yourself thinking about phonetics terribly much at all – so you might be surprised to hear that at Rethink Speech, we want you to re-think phonetics!

The reason is that how people think about speech affects how they think about phonetics, and how people think about phonetics affects how they think about speech.

So that very definition – ‘science of speech’ – can create a lot of misconceptions. You might like to take a look at a few of them here. Perhaps in the process you will find that phonetics can be a lot more interesting than you might have imagined.

Before we get started, recall that Rethink Speech does not aim to teach you phonetics.

The knowledge we impart is well grounded in the findings of phonetic science, but our focus is on helping you think about speech itself, and in particular, helping you to unlearn some false beliefs widely accepted as common knowledge in our society.

Isn’t learning phonetics the same thing as learning about speech?

Well it should be, and in the long run it is, if you get to advanced levels. But the way things currently are, it is possible to study quite a lot of phonetics without learning the most important things about speech. Find further discussion in this open module you’re in right now.

At Rethink Speech we focus first on teaching about the nature of speech and how it works, and only later on teaching particular theories, practices and skills of phonetic science.