UCL Centre for languages & international education (CLIE)


The Sounds of Language: Principles of Phonetics

Key Information

Module code
Taught during
Session Two
Module leader
Dr. James White
GPA of around 3.3/4.0 (US) or equivalent
Assessment method
3 in-class quizzes (75%; 25% per quiz), Sound production exam (25%)
Download syllabus (PDF)
UCL is ranked fifth in the world for Arts and Humanities

Module overview

This module will provide a foundation for further study in linguistics, second language instruction and speech pathology.

The module will provide an overview of vocal tract anatomy. Students will learn, through daily practical exercises, how to produce the consonants and vowels of the world’s languages, and transcribe them using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The first part of the module will focus on English consonants and vowels and the second part will cover speech sounds not found in English (including clicks, implosives, ejectives, tones) and linguistic voice quality. Students will learn about the acoustic properties of speech and the tools used to study these properties.

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Understand how all of the sounds of the world’s languages are produced
  • Be able to transcribe speech sounds using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)
  • Understand basic acoustic and aerodynamic properties of speech
  • Have gained practical experience with technology used to study speech sounds
  • Be able to apply their knowledge in understanding how speech sounds are used and distributed in the world’s languages.

Module prerequisites

This is a level one module (equivalent to first year undergraduate). Students must have completed one year of undergraduate study. No prior subject knowledge is required for this module, but students are expected to have a keen interest in the area.

Module hours

Classes (usually three or four hours per day) take place on the Bloomsbury campus from Monday to Friday any time between 9am and 6pm.


  • 3 in-class quizzes (75%; 25% per quiz)
  • Sound production exam (25%)

Module leader

Dr James White is a lecturer in the UCL Department of Linguistics. He completed a Ph.D. in Linguistics at University of California, Los Angeles and previously taught at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on the areas of phonology, phonetics, and language acquisition.

Application information


  • Register interest in your chosen modules
  • Receive notice of visits to your country and more
Register now


Follow the UCL Summer School on social media

Follow the UCL International Summer School for Undergraduates on Facebook Follow the UCL International Summer School for Undergraduates on Twitter