March 8, 2012 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to learn college-level phonetics and phonology on one's own? Bonus: online?

I missed the boat on taking my university's Phonetics and Phonology course when I was in college. These days, I'm an interested amateur: I can noodle my way around IPA and know the basic articulatory differences between common vowel and consonant sounds, but that's about it. I'd love to be at a place where I could understand the subject on the level of, say, a linguistics undergrad.

I've heard that it's basically impossible to learn phonetics without a teacher, but nothing is impossible on metafilter. Can I do it? Can I learn what I would have learned in that class on my own? Can I do it online or at least on the cheap? Gimme the juice, hive mind.
posted by jweed to Education (7 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Run, do not walk, to get Catford's introduction to Phonetics. It gives practical exercises on how to make all the phones, which you can do at home, if the ejectives don't alarm anyone.
posted by zompist at 8:19 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Utah State University's Communication Disorders & Deaf Education department offers on-line courses for under $250 per credit hour, which does add up for a single class but is very reasonable for college tuition. You do not have to formally apply to the college or be a degree-seeking student to take courses; if you're not going for a degree, the whole "application" process takes about 10 minutes, if that.
posted by not that girl at 8:21 PM on March 8, 2012

Former ling undergrad here: to my recollection, there is very little to my phonetics & phonology class that couldn't have been picked up with good texts, and I had a pretty great professor. (He even let us, one by one, come up and shine a flashlight down his throat while he made certain sounds. But seriously, very much of it is memorization and conceptual relations.)
posted by psoas at 8:42 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that you've been told it's impossible. The only thing about phonetics that I can imagine *requiring* an instructor is getting useful feedback when you're attempting to produce an unfamiliar sound, but many linguistics undergrads don't get this, either.

I recommend Ladefoged's Introduction to Phonetics. It's a classic text for good reason. These days it comes with a CD that has some supplementary materials on it. I believe it also refers you to the UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive (online), which is a great place to hear examples:


You could work through that book on your own.

I'm not sure I would recommend a course through a Speech Disorders/Speech Science/Etc or equivalent department. While they do teach phonetics, the focus is slightly different than a course through a linguistics department.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Introduction to Phonetics and adding Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson's The Sounds of the World's Languages.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:50 PM on March 8, 2012

I have also found the online resources here to be useful.
posted by forza at 12:35 AM on March 9, 2012

Hi, I used to lecture in phonetics and phonology, both in person and online. Yep, it's absolutely possible. Catford will get you pretty far through, and if you have difficulty conceptualizing what's going on in the mouth and throat YouTube has some interesting stuff:
X-ray showing articulation
vowel articulation
singing vocal chords
posted by Paragon at 12:41 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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