Phonetics and Phonology

Phonetics is the study of speech sounds in a language which deals with acoustics, articulation, and sound reception. Individual sounds in a language (which vary per language) are called phonemes, which are the smallest units of sound.

To transcribe and distinguish between sounds in a language, linguists use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). IPA allows the phonemes to be identified by all linguists around the world, creating a standard. All phonemes, both consonantal and vowel sounds, are represented in the following charts categorized by placement of articulation and manner of articulation, as shown below.


Remember, the phonemes vary per language. Phonetics also deals with the organs of speech involved with language production: lungs, vocal cords, pharynx, velum, palate, alveolar ridge, and the tongue. Note that the vowel chart is shaped like a mouth and the phonemes are placed in the spot of the mouth in which they are produced.

Phonology is the study of the patterns of sounds that occur within a language. The phonemes we gather about the language form patterns that indicate the way sounds behave in a language, what sounds complement others or cause them to change, and the systems of sounds. There is a deeper analysis of phonemes in the environments with one another. Phonetics and phonology work hand in hand.

Below, I will detail the phonemes present in the language Sesotho which I learned through my own research since my class did not focus on deconstructing the language.

Sesotho Phonetics & Phonology






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The information above shows the present phonemes in the language which is important information to know in order to know how and where to produce specific sounds of the language- which is a better approach than guessing how to produce sounds. This is crucial when dealing with sounds outside of our own language ideologies.

NOTE: Phonology goes further into tones and length of phonemes as well as the detailed intricacies of each. This guide does not detail such since it was not studied. Please refer to the official grammar.


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