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Voice Articulation

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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).

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''.

Final Voice Articulation Quiz

Question

True or false - The vocal folds create sound when they come into contact and then vibrate (or not) as air flows through them from the lungs.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false - The vibration in voiced sounds doesn’t change, but always has the same intensity.

Show answer

Answer

False. The vibration in voiced sounds can be longer or shorter, relaxed or tensed, and the pressure caused by the airflow can also differ in intensity.

Show question

Question

How is a 'voiceless' sound produced? Think of an example.

Show answer

Answer

     

A voiceless sound is produced when the airflow in the vocal folds moves freely from the pharynx to the mouth. Example: phonemes /f,p,s,t/.

Show question

Question

How is a 'voiced' sound produced? Think of an example.

Show answer

Answer

A voiced sound is produced when the vocal cords are pushed together and vibrate. Example: phonemes /b, d, m, v/.

Show question

Question

True or false - When the vocal cords have a narrow passage between them, the airflow will push them apart.

Show answer

Answer

False. When the vocal cords have a narrow passage between them, the airflow will push them together.

Show question

Question

What is the pulmonic airstream?

Show answer

Answer

The pulmonic airstream is the airflow coming from the lungs and passing through the larynx.

Show question

Question

How can you feel the vibration to detect if a sound is voiced or voiceless?

Show answer

Answer

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.

Show question

Question

True or false - We have no 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.

Show answer

Answer

False. 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.

Show question

Question

Read the following extract and write if it’s a voiced or voiceless process. “Once stuck together, air can’t pass through until enough pressure is built and forces the vocal cords to be separated again”.

Show answer

Answer

Voiced as this process results in the vibration of the vocal cords.

Show question

Question

If we think of voice, what can we add to the term leaving the linguistic side of it?

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Answer

When we think of voice we think of social interactions, a message with a tone or accent. It carries the heritage of our society, our mood and our identity.

Show question

Question

What parts of the body are relevant to sound production?

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Answer

The respiratory system and the vocal organs.

Show question

Question

What has to vibrate to create voiced sounds?

Show answer

Answer

The vocal cords.

Show question

Question

True or false: Vowels cannot be voiceless.

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Answer

False

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Question

Are there any voiceless vowels in the English language?

Show answer

Answer

No

Show question

Question

Is it possible for vowel sounds to be voiceless?

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Answer

Yes, when we whisper, we create voiceless vowels.

Show question

Question

Which of these sounds is voiced?

Show answer

Answer

/ʌ/

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Question

Which of the following lists contains only voiceless sounds?

Show answer

Answer

/k/

/θ/

/s/

/t/

Show question

Question

What sort of voicing do these sounds have?

/m/ /n/ /ŋ/

Show answer

Answer

Voiced

Show question

Question

Does shouting affect your voicing of the letter /t/?

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Answer

No, increasing volume will not affect the voiceless quality of /t/.

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Question

Which of the following is not a voiced consonant?

Show answer

Answer

/ʊ/

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