5. The vocal tract and places of articulation

    There are many good sites you can visit to deepen your understanding and visual impression of the structure of the vocal tract.

    First of all, to put things in context, here is a an interactive 3-D model of what happens when we breathe.

    Merck Manual Breathing Dynamics

    Next, here's a mid-sagittal view of the head, with the organs of articulation labeled.

    Meet Sammy: A Saint Mary's University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) site offers an interactive (meaning you can play around with it!) mid-sagittal (cut in half lengthwise between the eyes) section of the head showing the position of the articulators for many different phonemes. Sammy Mansfield (the initials of this name are the same as for "Speech Mechanism") was the name given to outline mid-saggital sketches used by William A. Smalley in his Manual of Articulatory Phonetics, first published in 1961, to illustrate vocal tract configurations during the articulation of different sounds. (His wife was a very 60s lady named Sally who liked to buy silly hats that Sammy didn't approve of.) Here is the modern-day digital Sammy:

http://smu-facweb.smu.ca/~s0949176/sammy/    (Old version)

    Set parameters such as voiced/voiceless; oral/nasal; lip position, and so forth, and the figure of the head will assume the position required to make the sound with those values. This can be useful in reviewing information in Chapter One of Ladefoged.

     You'll notice that Sammy can only handle consonants. We're going to jump ahead of the text a bit and have a look at the vowel space inside the mouth as well. Click on the link for an excellent vowel chart from the textbook site - click on each symbol to hear it pronounced.

      How Helen Keller used knowledge of articulatory phonetics to learn how to speak with her mouth

     Below is a truly amazing and rare video that shows firsthand how Helen Keller used knowledge of articulatory phonetics to learn how to speak from her teacher Anne Sullivan. Notice how she feels for the place of articulation, whether there is voicing or not, by touching the throat, and whether a sound is nasal or oral, by touching the nose.


     There is another very interesting film of Helen Keller, in which she share one of her biggest disappointments in life
íV and it wasn't being blind or deaf. It is relevant to our study of phonetics and pronunciation, because she talks about what happens when someone's speech doesn't quite fit the expected norm:


ore great graphics coming up!

Next: X-ray cineradiography

on to next page        back        index I        index II         home