Thursday, October 20, 2005

PFSP-Day 3-How speech is formed & Full Breath

On Wednesday we spent a lot of time discussing how speech is formed. It really is amazing the miracle of it all, and how quickly we adjust our vocal tract to form new sounds. I’m not even going to speculate at how many vocal tract changes we make per second in a fluent conversation.

As we exhale, our vocal folds begin to open and close, resulting in varying vibrations according the frequency. The vocal folds open and close about 150 times per second with men, and slightly faster for women since their voice box is smaller. The vibrating vocal folds cause the surrounding air to vibrate, and it’s this vibrating air, which eventually makes it to the ears of our listeners.

The vibrating air, then enters our vocal tract where it is shaped into our final speech sounds. The vocal tract is essentially everything after your voice box. If you are pronouncing a vowel sound, your vocal tract will be largely unrestricted, but all consonants rely on vocal tract constrictions of one type or another, including stopping the speech completely for one class of sounds.

The chart below gets a little more specific with these sounds, breaking them up into 3 classes for consonants and 1 class for vowels.

Basic ClassVowelsConsonants
Vocal TractOpenConstrictedConstrictedClosed
TargetsStretched Syllable
Gentle Onset
Stretched Syllable

The Class II sounds are called Voiced Continuants, and are voiced, stretchable consonants. For me, they are what you think of when you think of consonants.

The Class III sounds are called Fricatives and are not voiced. These are sounds like ‘S’ or ‘Sh’. Personally, I did not even realized there were sounds in our vocabulary which did not involve our voice box. These sounds cannot be stretched need to be treated specially.

The Class IV sounds are called Plosives. These sounds are actually stopped, then released. Sounds like ‘P’ or ‘B’, these sounds have caused me enormous problems over my lifetime. The vocal tract on these sounds are actually closed versus constricted with other consonants or open as with vowels.

Plosives also have the unique characteristic of half being voiced and half not being voiced. Not only that, but if you add a voice to the voiceless Plosives, you will get a matching voiced Plosive! So :
‘P’ with a voice. becomes ‘B’
‘T’ with a voice. becomes ‘D’
‘G’ with a voice. becomes ‘K’

This kind of blew my mind.

I asked why the voiced and unvoiced plosives would be grouped together, and was told that for our purposes they use the same targets. I get the feeling the grouping can become a lot more granular, and we are only seeing an upper layer.

You may also notice that only 27 sounds are listed on the chart, where as there are approx. 45 sounds in the English language. Most of the remaining sounds are vowel combinations and are implicitly included.

As a point of interest; Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world, having 52% of the population from a very dispersed, non-UK, country of origin. So it only makes sense that non-English languages were discussed and sounds from relevant languages were classified. I’ll spare you my rant about how tolerance and fresh perspectives by a diversified culture drives economic prosperity.

As for Targets, on Wednesday, we continued with the Stretched Syllable target, moving on to un-written dialog.

We were then introduced to the Full Breath target. The full breath target is essentially diaphragm breathing. Basically, we can breath by extending our shoulders, rib cage, or diaphragm, but diaphragm breathing is the best, because it’s deeper and more natural. The only problem with this, is with our super fat conscious society, we’ve all been conditioned to suck in our gut all the time.

So for a little while we put our hands on our belly and our hands on our shoulders to watch our breath. What we were aiming for was a belly which would be extending and contracting regularly.

My breathing is definitely causing me problems. It is shallow and jerky. Although it’s such a simple thing, I believe this is a going to be a valuable target for me.

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Monday, July 02, 2012 5:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

K (not voiced) becomes G (when voiced).

Not the other way around.

Great article tho.

At Monday, March 14, 2016 7:25:00 AM, Blogger jowdjbrown said...

In addition to targeted statements, the study measured unsubstantiated claims, divisive language, and indexical terms (code words) related to political nativism.speech recognition program


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