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Phonetics is the study of the units that make up language. 
In spoken language, these "units" are sounds of speech, such as consonants and vowels. 
  • Articulatory phonetics is the study of how speech sounds are produced
  • Acoustic phonetics is the study of the physical properties of speech sounds and how they are transmitted 
  • Auditory phonetics is the study of how speech sounds are perceived 
Phonetics also involves studying which sounds are possible in speech. Even though humans can make many types of sounds, only some of those sounds are actually used in human language.

However, that also means that there is a finite set of sounds a human can make, leading to misunderstandings across languages. Check out the video to the right about funny phonetic misinterpretations of song lyrics! 

The following is an International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) chart of sounds used in English, written in symbols universally recognized. If you know a foreign language, you can probably recognize that some of these sounds are used in other languages as well. Try pronouncing "Linguistics" by using the chart! 

Phonetics Misunderstanding

Do you know the Indian music video "Benny Lava," where English lyrics for the song were written based on what the words sounded like in English? 

Learn more about this funny phonetics phenomenon!