When we work with phonetic data, there are essentially two different types of tools, those that help us to make recordings or transfer them to the computer and those that actually allow us to conduct an analysis of phonetic data. We’ll refer to the former as ‘sound or audio tools’ and to the latter as ‘(phonetic) analysis tools’.
Audio tools are general purpose tools for recording, archiving or manipulating audio data on the computer. They usually also provide various functions for filtering or noise reduction, as well as cutting and other types of editing of digital audio data. A highly useful general purpose audio tool is the freeware program Audacity, which allows you to open audio files in various different formats, as well as converting or resampling them. Although many of the analysis programs designed for analysing speech partly offer the same functionality, it is still in many cases advisable to use a proper audio tool for preparing the data for analysis and only once that has been done to start using the analysis tools.
Please note that it may actually be dangerous to manipulate recordings once you’ve started analysing, and especially annotating, them because any manipulation at the beginning of the sound file will make the offsets written into annotation files invalid because they usually point at fixed points in the sound file!
On this course, you’ll be introduced to two different phonetic analysis tools, WaveSurfer and Praat. Like Audacity, both of these tools are available free of charge and offer a variety of options for displaying, measuring and annotating phonetic data on various levels. The main purposes/techniques we&rsquo'll be discussing here range from displaying waveforms or spectrograms, to extracting pitch information and measuring durations. Out of the two programs, Praat is somewhat more difficult to learn, so that we’ll usually try to use WaveSurfer for most of our purposes.