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Chapter 1. THE ORGANS OF SPEECH AND THEIR WORK




In any language people speak (if they have no physical defects) using their organs of speech (Fig. 1).

 

The air stream released by the lungs goes through the wind­pipe and comes to the larynx, which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two elastic folds which may be kept apart or brought together. The opening between them is called the glottis. This is the usual state of the vocal cords, when we breathe out. If the tense vocal cords are brought together, the air stream forcing an opening makes them vibrate and we hear some voice. Let us pronounce the Russian sound [3]. Put your finger on the larynx and produce a long [3] sound. You will feel the vibration of the vocal cords and hear voice. Such sounds are called voiced. Now produce a long Russian sound [c]. No vi­bration is felt, no voice is heard. This is a voiceless sound, which is made with the vocal cords kept apart.

There is one more state of the vocal cords which results in the glottal stop. When the vocal cords are brought close togeth­er and then opened suddenly by the air stream there comes a sort of coughing noise, a kind of the 'click' of the vocal cords. This sound is called the glottal stop.

On coming out of the larynx the air stream passes through the pharynx.

The pharyngal cavity extends from the top of the larynx to the soft palate, which directs the air stream either to the mouth or nasal cavities, which function as the principal resonators.

The soft palate can be easily seen in a hand mirror. Now open your mouth wide and say the vowel [a]. Looking into the mirror you will see the soft palate, the very end of which is known as the uvula. The soft palate can easily move. When the soft palate is in its lowered position the air goes up into the nasal cavity and then out through the nose. This is the usual po­sition of the soft palate when we breathe through the nose. This is also the position for the nasal sounds [m, n, rj]; [m, m', h, h']. If you nip your nose you cannot pronounce these sounds. But as soon as you release the nose the air will continue its way and you will hear the sounds again. When the soft palate is raised the uvula forms a full contact with the back wall of the pharynx and the air stream goes through the mouth cavity. This is the most typical position of the soft palate for most of the sounds of many languages.

The soft palate is the furthest part of the palate from the

teeth. Most of the palate is hard. This hard and fixed part of the palate is divided into two sections: the hard palate (the highest part of the palate) and the teeth ridge or alveolar ridge (the part immediately behind the upper front teeth). You can touch the teeth ridge with the tongue-t i p. The teeth ridge is very important in English as many con­sonants are formed with the tongue touching or close to it. If you still move the tip of the tongue forward you will feel the teeth.

The lower teeth are not very important for making speech sounds, while tile upper teeth take part in the production of many of them.

The most important organ of speech is the tongue. Pho­neticians divide the tongue into four sections, the part which lies opposite the soft palate is called the back of the tongue; the part facing the hard palate is called the f r o n t; the one lying under the teeth ridge is known as the blade and its extremity the t i p . By the central part of the tongue we mean the area where the front and back meet. The edges of the tongue are known as the rims. The tongue may lie flat or move in the horizontal or vertical directions. It can also change its shape so that the sides are curved up forming a groove.

The lips can take up various positions as well. They can be brought firmly together or kept apart neutral, rounded, or pro­truded forward.

All the organs of speech can be divided into two groups:

(1) active organs of speech, movable and taking an ac­tive part in the sound formation: (a) the vocal cords which pro­duce voice; (b) the tongue which is the most flexible, movable organ; (c) the lips affecting very considerably the shape of the mouth cavity; (d) the soft palate with the uvula, directing the stream of air either to the mouth or to the nasal cavity; (e) the back wall of the pharynx contracted for some sounds; (f) the lower jaw which movement controls the gap between the teeth and also the disposition of the lips; (g) the lungs providing air for sounds;

(2) passive organs of speech: (a) the teeth, (b) the teeth ridge, (c) the hard palate and (d) the walls ©f the resonators.

 

QUESTIONS AND TASKS –

Now make sure that you can speak on these items:

1. The direction of the air stream released from the lungs.

2. Three different states of the vocal cords.

3. The position of the soft palate which influences the direction of the air stream.

4. The parts of the palate.

5. The parts of the tongue.

6. The position of the movable organs of the mouth, i.e. the shape of the lips and tongue.

7. The active and passive organs of speech and their role in the sound formation.


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