Ask A Linguist For October 1997 - December 1997
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> From: Myriam Garcia Bernabe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> It seems that parrots and budgies can actually talk -when
> they feel like it, of course- by repetition. However,
> I know they have vocal cords, vocal tract, tongue,...but they
> do not have lips. How come they can produce bilabial sounds
> such as [m] and [b]?
I am not an expert on this, but I believe they do it in a way
similar to how human ventriloquists seem to produce these sounds without
closing their lips. We 'hear' a sound where we expect it to occur if what
we hear is not too different from the usual way the sound is produced. Try
saying something like: 'Her coat and boots didn't match.' You probably can
do a good imitation of this sentence without moving your lips at all.
Karen Steffen Chung
National Taiwan University