In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Articulatory Phonetics

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Edited Collections
  • Terminology and Descriptive Primitives
  • Experimental Methods
  • Units of Articulation
  • The Role of Prosody
  • Modeling Movement and Sources of Variation
  • Linguistic Diversity and Theoretical Implications

Linguistics Articulatory Phonetics
Marie K. Huffman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0053


Articulatory phonetics is concerned with the physical apparatus used to produce speech sounds and the physical and cognitive factors that determine what are possible speech sounds and sound patterns. Given the common understanding that speech articulation is an integrated part of a communication system that also includes speech perception, articulatory phonetics is usually treated within a broader context of the full speech chain, which additionally includes speech aerodynamics, speech acoustics, and speech perception. Consequently, the research reports and reference and teaching tools in the field are dispersed over a wide range of works that treat phonetics more generally. Because of the enormous size of the relevant literature, only more recent or particularly comprehensive earlier works are highlighted here. Key theoretical questions in articulatory phonetics include what units are used in speech planning and which aspects of observed speech movements are learned as part of a particular language rather than being a consequence of how the speech mechanism works (whether this is physical constraints of the actual speech organs or cognitive aspects of speech motor planning and execution). Cross-linguistic investigations of speech sound inventories and articulation have been critical to clarifying this distinction. Another long-standing question is whether and how articulation planning is influenced by knowledge of the acoustic outcome and its importance to maintaining distinctions critical to the perceptual needs of the “listener” as a generic or a specific entity. Discussions of historical sound change have appealed both to organic constraints and to ambiguities in the acoustic-articulatory mapping process as factors that influence the source and path of pronunciation change over time.


Textbook treatments of articulatory phonetics range from brief descriptions of articulatory categories to in-depth physiological and anatomical descriptions underlying clinical assessment and treatments. Many linguistics-oriented texts include little or no discussion of research instrumentation and methodology. More clinically oriented texts treat this topic more but have little or no reference to language data or foreign-language examples. Ladefoged and Johnson 2011 is a linguistically oriented textbook with a moderate amount of articulatory information. Ashby and Maidment 2005 and Hewlett and Beck 2006 provide more articulatory detail while still including some cross-linguistic coverage. The former has more illustrations with original data, while the latter has somewhat more in the way of summary graphics that aid the learner. Marchal 2009 is a speech physiology text for linguists. Ferrand 2007 as a whole is intended for a more clinical audience, but the introductory material is presented so as to be fully accessible to nonclinicians. Zemlin 1981 is a classic anatomy and physiology book for speech scientists.

  • Ashby, Michael, and John A. Maidment. 2005. Introducing phonetic science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    A general introduction that gives more than the usual attention to phonation and airstream mechanisms. Articulatory descriptions are supplemented with figures from electropalatography (EPG), video, imaging, and acoustics. Concepts are illustrated with examples from a variety of languages. Other useful textbook features include vocabulary lists, suggested readings, and solutions to exercises.

  • Ferrand, Carole T. 2007. Speech science: An integrated approach to theory and clinical practice. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon.

    A compact introduction to speech science, covering more anatomy and physiology than most linguistic phonetic textbooks and with a more in-depth discussion of experimental techniques. Chapters on basics and clinical applications are interleaved, so the reader lacking a clinical focus easily accesses the foundational material. Chapter objectives and summaries are helpful textbook features.

  • Hewlett, Nigel, and J. Mackenzie Beck. 2006. An introduction to the science of phonetics. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    A good general introduction, including discussion of the anatomy and physiology of phonation and oral articulation. A special strength is the many visual aids—sketches, photos, and instrumental data. It also includes many graphs representing the temporal complexity of speech and an overview of experimental methods (see also Experimental Methods). Also provides solutions to exercises.

  • Ladefoged, Peter, and Keith Johnson. 2011. A course in phonetics. 6th ed. Boston: Wadsworth.

    A popular textbook that includes a basic articulatory description of English sounds as well as sounds of other languages.

  • Marchal, Alain. 2009. From speech physiology to linguistic phonetics. London: International Society for Technology in Education.

    DOI: 10.1002/9780470611869

    An introduction to speech physiology intended specifically for the linguist. Multiple summary tables and figures do much to help organize the many taxonomic terms covered. A full chapter is dedicated to articulator coordination and related aspects of speech planning. A fairly brief cross-linguistic articulatory typology is also included.

  • Zemlin, Willard R. 1981. Speech and hearing science: Anatomy and physiology. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    A detailed general introduction to anatomy and physiology, but with no specific reference to linguistic concepts. First edition 1968.

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