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Voice Articulation

In phonetics and phonologyvoice articulation or voicing identifies speech sounds (like consonants and vowels) produced by the vocal folds (or vocal cords).

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Voice Articulation

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In phonetics and phonology, voice articulation or voicing identifies speech sounds (like consonants and vowels) produced by the vocal folds (or vocal cords).

What is Voice Articulation?

When we think of voice, we normally think of it in terms of social interactions. Our voice carries a message with a tone or accent. It carries aspects of our heritage, our mood and our identity.


The main organs relevant to sound production or sound articulation are the respiratory system and the vocal organs.

The voice is produced in the vocal cords situated in the larynx in the thyroid cartilage or "Adam's Apple". The vocal folds create sound when they come into contact and then vibrate (or not) as the lungs' air flow passes through them. This cycle produces sound waves. To have a clear sound, the vocal folds have to vibrate regularly and symmetrically, with the pitch of the voice determined by the vibrations produced.


In the English language, we have voiced and voiceless sounds. The sound produced falls into one of these categories depending on the vocal folds' position to create the sound, and the pulmonic airstream (airflow produced by the lungs going through the larynx).

Let's have a look at the differences between voiced and voiceless sounds.

Voiced sound

During the vibration of the vocal folds, called voiced, we can produce different sorts of sounds. As Peter Roach, ex University professor and phonetician affirms, thanks to the larynx we can “make changes in the vocal folds themselves”, the vibration can be longer or shorter, relaxed or tensed and the pressure caused by the airflow could also differ in intensity .


If the vocal cords have a narrow passage between them, the airflow will push them together. Once stuck together, air can't pass through until enough pressure is built and forces the vocal cords to be separated again.

Voiced sound in English, where the vocal fold vibration is present, are / b, d, m, v /. When you pronounce these sounds, you can feel and hear a vibration.

Voiced sounds - examples

These are all of the voiced sounds in the English language:

Vowels

Consonants

/i:/ - weep

/b/ - bed

/ɪ / - bit

/d/ - dog

/ʊ/ - good

/v/ - vivacious

/u:/ - boot

/ð/ - those

/e/ - beg

/dʒ/ - gym

/ə/ - about

/z/ - zebra

/3:/ - heard

/g/ - goat

/ɔ:/ - ought

/ʒ/ - vision

/æ/ - bat

/m/ - man

/ʌ/ - up

/n/ - noun

/a:/ - car

/ŋ/ - sing

/ɔ/ - dog

/l/ - loud

/r/ - red

/w/ - wet

/j/ - yam

Voiceless sounds

We can also produce voiceless sounds by allowing air to pass through the vocal folds unhindered. As Beverly Collins (1938-2014) confirmed, we have many muscles interacting in the vocal tract in sound production to allow parts of the vocal organs to get in contact or near contact and articulate.


No vibration is generated while the vocal cords allow the air through without obstruction. The sound produced is called a voiceless sound.

Voiceless sounds in English, where the vocal fold don't vibrate, are / f, p, s, t /. When you pronounce any of these sounds, you can perceive the lack of vibration if you sustain them for a few seconds.

Study Tip: Place your fingers on your Adam's apple to check whether you have voiced or voiceless consonants. If you feel some vibration, it's a voiced sound, and if you don't, it's voiceless.

Voiceless sounds - examples

There are no voiceless vowel sounds in the English language however vowels can be produced in a voiceless way, such as when you're whispering.

Here are all of the voiceless consonants in the English language:

  • /p/ - pet
  • /t/ - town
  • /f/ - friend
  • /θ/ - think
  • /tʃ/ - cheese
  • /s/ - sound
  • /k/ - king
  • /ʃ/ - should
  • /h/ - hat

Voice Articulation - Key takeaways

  • In phonetics and phonology, voice articulation or voicing identifies speech sounds (like consonants and vowels) produced by the vocal folds (or vocal cords).
  • The main organs relevant to sound production or sound articulation are the respiratory system and the vocal organs.
  • In the English language, we have voiced and voiceless sounds. The sound produced falls into one of these categories depending on the position of the vocal folds to create the sound, and the pulmonic airstream (airflow produced by the lungs).
  • During the vibration of the vocal folds, called voiced, we can produce different sorts of sounds: the vibration can be longer or shorter, relaxed or tensed and the pressure caused by the airflow could also differ in intensity.
  • We can also produce voiceless sounds created with the lack of vibration of the vocal cords. Place your fingers on your Adam's apple to check whether you have voiced or voiceless consonants.

Frequently Asked Questions about Voice Articulation

In phonetics and phonology, voice articulation or voicing identifies speech sounds (like consonants and vowels) produced by the vocal folds (or vocal cords).

A voiced sound is when the vocal cords vibrate during speech production. Unvoiced sounds are created without the vocal cords vibrating.

We call it a voiceless sound when it is created with the lack of vibration in the vocal cords.

The main organs relevant to sound production or sound articulation are the respiratory system and the vocal organs.

The voice is produced in the vocal cords situated in the larynx in the thyroid cartilage or “Adam’s Apple''.

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

True or false: Vowels cannot be voiceless.

Are there any voiceless vowels in the English language?

Which of these sounds is voiced?

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