Phonetics examines the transmission of linguistic messages from speakers to listeners, the phonetic, prosodic and acoustic characteristics of speech, as well as the relationship between language and speech. Speech can be examined as a cognitive-motoric performance, an acoustic state and a phenomenon within the perception of the recipient. All these are characteristic of research in phonetics. Often, the research also encompasses various background factors that invariably affect the nature and success of the speech act, such as the formality of the occasion or the language and dialect backgrounds of the speakers. The research focuses on normal speech.

At the University of Helsinki, research in phonetics is focused on the acoustic manifestation of speech, partly by comparing different languages and partly regardless of the language spoken.

Phonetic research is often multidisciplinary: connections can be found with language instruction, psychology and brain research, individual languages, general linguistics and language technology, as well as technical sciences such as acoustics. The discipline of phonetics has also participated in planning a public database system for speech, and compiling speech databases.

Central research themes include

  • Characteristics of speech sounds and phonological systems
  • Prosodic characteristics, such as intonation and emphasis
  • Acquisition of foreign language pronunciation
  • Speaker-specific differences in voice quality
  • Styles of speech
  • Phonetic characteristics of language development in children
  • Speech technology, including speech synthesis, automatic speech recognition and speaker recognition