Phonetics is traditionally said to have three principal branches: Acoustic, Articulatory and Auditory. Wikipedia has, appropriately, articles on Acoustic phonetics, Articulatory phonetics and Auditory phonetics. I have always felt that of these three, Auditory gets the least attention and may be regarded as something of a Cinderella. If you look at each of the three articles, you will probably find, as I do, some serious weaknesses, but the Auditory one is by far the most unsatisfactory. It consists largely of some sketchy definitions and some rather dubious history.
- I find the statement near the beginning that “With auditory experiments such as sound impulses or questionnaires it can be investigated, based on the feedback from the listeners” doesn’t tell us much.
- I am quite mystified by this: “Neurological measurement methods are also used, e.g. determine the frequency range of the sound perception of individual letters”.
- The claim that “Auditory phonetics therefore focuses heavily on the neurophysiological and anatomical processes in hearing”, though based, apparently, on a source that I haven’t read and can’t get hold of, seems wrong. If Auditory phonetics comprises (as I believe it does) speech perception, then the subject must depend just as much on cognitive aspects of speech communication as on physiology and anatomy.
- We are told (without a reference) that “Georg von Békésy has put forward a theory that shows how language is processed in the ear and in the human brain”, but the idea of “language being processed in the ear” makes no sense.
- There is a table which attempts to pair physical properties with corresponding auditory sensations. Among the pairings we find “frequency” paired with “high”, and “duration” paired with “tone color”
- The attempt to explain categorical perception falls well short of the mark. It mixes up the segmentation of continuous speech into successive units with the perception of vowel and consonant differences along a continuum.
I think I will spend my remaining lockdown time revising the “Three A’s” articles one by one, starting with Auditory. Any suggestions gratefully received.