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Acoustics is the study of sound waves. It is properly a subfield of physics, but is also key to the linguistic specialization of Acoustic Phonetics.

Acoustics allows us to understand how movements in the vocal tract produce all of the speech sounds of human language. It also allows us to analyse those sounds based on audio recordings.

The main tools of acoustic phonetic research are the waveform, which graphs pressure over time, and the spectrogram, which breaks a sound down into its component frequencies. Typical investigations will examine the duration of particular sounds or parts of sounds, the frequency of various elements of the signal, such as the fundamental frequency or formant frequencies, or amplitude.