Phonetics, often defined as the scientific study of speech sounds, encompasses three primary areas of interest: (1) speech sound production, (2) acoustic transmission of speech sounds, and (3) speech sound reception. The field of phonetics is interdisciplinary and draws upon the natural sciences (anatomy, physiology, physics), the social and behavioral sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics), and engineering. In turn, the principles of phonetics are applied in such diverse fields as education (foreign language pedagogy, reading), health care and rehabilitation (speech-language pathology), the humanities (vocal music), and forensics. The phonetic sciences also impact industry; telecommunications, speech recognition software packages, and synthetic speech applications incorporate phonetic principles and are widely available.

Abasic goal of phonetics has been to develop reliable and valid conventions for describing speech production. In practice, this is accomplished using two complementary approaches: impressionistic phonetic transcription and instrumental measurement. These procedures are designed to allow one to document speech patterns regardless of the language that is being spoken.

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