eli5 Sine waves in phonetics


Can someone explain sine waves in phonetics in an easy way? I’m specifically talking about phonetics not just physics. Thanks

In: 5

Phonetics is the study of speech. Other than the fact that sounds are made up of sine waves, there’s little connection between a pure sine wave and the study of phonetics.

Sine waves are simple — evenly shaped with constant amplitude.

Real sound waves are complicated — they do repeat but their shape can be irregular with lots of little peaks in between the major ones.

With something called Fourier analysis, you can represent any complicated wave by a sum of sine waves of different frequencies. So instead of looking at the shape of the complex wave, you can look at the a graph of the frequencies included in that wave. These frequency plots can be much easier to read! From there, I’ll defer to your phonetics teacher. You may be able to better perceive a vowel or a consonant from a frequency graph than a more traditional amplitude graph.