Phonetics Lab

The Phonetics Laboratory is located in Boylston 334 at the Department of Linguistics. The lab contains a PC with a Kay Computer Speech Lab (CSL) which is used both to teach and to do speech analysis in tutorials and courses. Course sections often meet in the lab so that students can do hands-on phonetics work. Students also receive keys to the lab so they can carry out individual projects and explore topics covered in class. With CSL, we can make pitch tracks, spectrograms and spectra to check hypotheses and carry out experiments. Students in our phonetics courses regularly carry out projects describing the sound system of an unfamiliar language. Students also measure vowel formants. The equipment is particularly useful for understanding the monophthongal and diphthongal qualities of certain vowels of English and other languages. Students have carried out acoustic analysis of languages such as Arabic and Polish for their honors theses.

The department has a portable DAT (digital audio) recorder which can be used to record elicitation sessions. This recorder can be used with a head-mounted noise-cancelling microphone which ensures consistent volume of recording and consistently high quality.

In addition to the CSL, we also have a Polaroid Macro 5 camera to do static palatography. This is a very high-quality instant camera designed for law enforcement work and other kinds of legal and medical documentation. The camera comes with dental mirrors that allow us to photograph evidence of lingual articulation on the palate. Images that we photograph are produced by applying a charcoal and olive oil emulsion to the speaker's tongue prior to articulation of a sound. Students have used this camera to study groups of similar fricatives in Mandarin Chinese and Polish, as well as some of the phonemes of Swedish. The camera is available to trained students carrying out research projects.

The phonetics lab also has a variety of computer resources to aid in the teaching of phonetics. The Sounds of the World's Languages database is available to all students, as are the computer files that accompany Ladefoged's book 'A Course in Phonetics.' We also have several CD-ROMs with audio data to exemplify phonemic contrasts and allophones.