Difference Between Phonetics and Phonology

Main Difference – Phonetics vs Phonology

Phonetics and phonology are two subfields of linguistics which studies the sounds in language. Since both these fields are related to the production of sound, many people do not understand the difference between phonetics and phonology. The main difference between phonetics and phonology is that phonetics is the study of speech sounds whereas phonology is the study of sounds, especially different patterns of sounds in different languages.Difference Between Phonetics and Phonology - infographic

What is Phonetics

Phonetics is the study and classification of speech sounds. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds, including their physiological production, acoustic properties, and auditory perception. Basically, phonetics studies how sounds are produced, transmitted and received.  Based on these three primary functions, phonetics can be classified into three subcategories: articulatory phonetics, acoustic phonetics, and auditory phonetics. Articulatory phonetics studies the production of speech sounds by the articulatory and vocal tract of the speaker. Acoustic phonetics studies the physical transmission of speech sounds from the speaker to the listener whereas auditory phonetics studies the reception and perception of speech sounds by the listener.

Difference Between Phonetics and Phonology

What is Phonology

Phonology is the system of contrastive relationships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundamental components of a language. In simple words, phonology is the study of sounds, especially different patterns of sounds in different languages. It studies how sounds are combined together to form words and how sounds alternate in different languages. Phonology also studies the inventory of sounds and their features in a language and the pragmatics rules which specify how sounds interact with each other. Phonology is also involved in the history and theory of sound changes in a language or in two or more related languages

We learn to reproduce the sound patterns in our native language from the birth itself. But some sounds in our language may not be available in other languages; likewise, some sounds in other languages may not be available in our language. This is why many of us face problems in pronouncing foreign words.

Main Difference - Phonetics vs Phonology

Difference Between Phonetics and Phonology


Phonetics is the study of speech sounds.

Phonology is the study of the speech sounds used in a language.

Branch of Linguistics

Phonetics belong to descriptive linguistics.

Phonology belongs to theoretical linguistics.


Phonetics studies the production, transmission, reception of sound.

Phonology studies different patterns of sounds in different languages.


Phonetics does not study one particular language.

Phonology can study one specific language.

Image Courtesy:

“English vowel chart” by Zhen Lin (Later version was uploaded by AxSkov) – Derived from File:Ipa-chart-vowels.png, via

“Cardinal vowel tongue position-front” By This vector image was created with Inkscape. – Own work, data: see below (GFDL) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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