Oral communication is one of the most important defining characteristics of the human race. At the same time, the dynamic development of modern technology has turned speech into a major instrument of public communication with important socio-cultural functions. These aspects have a direct bearing on the academic mission of the Institute of Phonetics. Basic research of the Institute revolves around acoustic and articulatory analyses of speech and around the perceptual verification of the functions which sounds have in communication. Since the Czech language manifests interesting, or even peculiar phonetic characteristics – both segmentally (such as the unique fricative trill sound ř) and suprasegmentally (for instance, the acoustic nature of lexical stress in Czech) – an important part of our activities concerns uncovering and describing the sound patterns of Czech. Increasingly, the focus has been on real, spontaneous (but still high-quality) conversations.
The more practically oriented or applicable line of research at the Institute of Phonetics includes two main areas. First, it is the research into the manifestations of a speaker’s identity in the speech signal, with the focus on phonetically interpretable parameters; this line also includes the gradual compilation and processing of a forensically relevant, multi-style database of Common Czech. In the second major stream of our research, we are examining the role of various sound patterns and their changes in communication: what are the aspects of speech – whether in one’s native language or in a foreign language – which make the speaker sound more or less competent or friendly, for example. In addition, the Institute of Phonetics has been cooperating with technical departments on improving the naturalness of Czech synthetic speech. Another important task is the active cultivation of speech in our mother tongue. Our activities as teachers and trainers, counsellors and experts cover schools, public broadcasters and cultural institutions, and our expertise is also used in court investigations.
The academic staff, but also students of the Institute of Phonetics regularly participate in international conferences like Interspeech, Speech Prosody, or ICPhS. Recently, the Institute has organized two scientific events, the traditional Czech–German Workshop on Speech Communication and the international conference EPIP 4 (English Pronunciation: Issues & Practices).
Our research results have received awards from the Charles University (a 2011 monograph and a 2014 diploma thesis).