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Word Count: 800
Spectrograms Because sound is a transitory phenomenon and only able to be perceived subjectively by listeners experimental phoneticians have several methods of making the sound permanent by displaying it in visual form This makes objective measurement of phenomena within the soundwave possible and removes the possibility of subjective error while making auditory judgements The commonest visual display we have in experimental phonetics is called the sound spectrogram The display takes the form of a graph on a computer screen for a more permanent record this graph can be transferred to paper It is not necessary to understand the details of how the computer program transforms sound into a visual presentation to be able to understand what the graph is showing Basically the computer does the following idivide the acoustic signal into slices or samples of quite brief duration less than 10ms iiexamine the spectral content what frequencies are present of each slice independently and iiidisplay the resultant individual spectra in successive columns across the screen from left to right The amplitudes of frequencies within the spectra the picture are presented either with different colours or with varying shades of grey to indicate different levels of amplitude How are you this is what the picture is displaying Thus a complete picture is built up of the spectral content of the original soundwave On the graph the x-axis horizontal represents time running from left to right the y-axis vertical represents the frequencies of the spectral components the computer identifies the different colours or levels of grey scale represent changing amplitudes of frequency component in the signal In general the brighter the colour the greater the amplitude of that particuar frequency component In the illustration yellow stands for the greatest amplitude sounds shading through red magenta light blue and dark blue through to black representing no sound at all silence In vowel sounds the formants are areas within
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