This is the first workshop in the 2019 Praat Scripting Workshop Series, offered at the University of Georgia DigiLab. For more information about the series and for links to the other handouts, visit

1 Introduction

Praat (Dutch for “talk”) is a free computer software package for the scientific analysis of speech and phonetics. Written and maintained by Paul Boersma and David Weenick, Praat has tons of features and can do a very wide range of functions for processing speech. In this workshop series, we can only show you how to do a very small number of things because we don’t even know all the ins and outs of Praat, but hopefully you’ll be able to leave the workshop with some skills yourself.

I’ll be the first to say that Praat definitely has some negative aspects:

  1. Praat is not the most visually appealing program. The icon, which is supposed to look like an ear and lips, probably hasn’t changed since the 90’s when the software was first created.

  2. It is also not the most intuitive software. Everything is hidden behind menus and buttons and everything takes a lot of clicks.

  3. It’s not the easiest software to learn how to use. The documentation online is very brief and never has enough detail. There are no books on how to use Praat. And—this one still boggles my mind—no one has written a decent tutorial. There is help within the software itself, but it’s not easy to use. This is part of the reason we wanted to put together these workshops, with a detailed set of instructions, so that you can use it to your advantage in your own research.

  4. In the past, Praat has been notoriously unstable. It would often crash without warning, meaning you’d lose all your work. There is no autosave feature. Recent versions seem more stable, but there’s always a small chance of it crashing.

With that said, Praat is still a highly sophisticated piece of software under-the-hood. There are some definite pros for using Praat:

  1. It’s the standard. Nearly every linguist has used Praat at some point. This is especially true of phoneticians, phonologists, and sociolinguists.

  2. While the software itself may not be pretty, the visualizations it can produce are professional quality.

  3. It actually has its own scripting language, to help automate any function it can do. This is especially useful if you have a task that you need to do over and over. Say you have a recording half an hour long and you want to extract the duration of all the vowels—a script will take care of that in seconds. But Praat scripting is even more of a black box than the regular software, with even fewer tutorials online. I can’t teach everything about Praat scripting in this class, but I hope to introduce a few basic tools.

  4. It’s free.

The pros outweigh the cons for sure.

1.1 Installing Praat

Praat is available at and can run on a variety of operating systems. To install it, simply go to and at the upper left of the site, click on your computer’s operating system. The program is relatively small and simple to run. To open Praat, click on its icon like any other program on your computer.

1.2 Praat Basics

When you first open Praat, there will be two windows that appear. The one on the right is where visualizations will occur. For now, we don’t need to worry about it, and you can just close it.