Transcript Passive Articulators
University of Asia Pacific
Organs of Speech
Submitted To: Arjumand Ara
University of Asia Pacific
Submitted By: 1)
Nafis Kamal (12216009)
Course Title: Phonetics and Phonology
Course Code: ENG (107)
Date of Submission: 8 th June, 2013
You might think that speaking comes naturally like
seeing and hearing. Yet it is not something you can do
soon after you are born. Speech is not one of the five
senses, and it has to be learned during the first few years
of life. All babies cry in the first few seconds or minutes
after birth. Crying is the first use of the vocal organs and
the first step towards speaking. Very soon babies start to
coo, gurgle and babble.
Definition of Organs of Speech
Organs of speech or articulators are part of the study of
articulatory phonetics. Articulator or speech organs are
those organs of our body which help us to produce speech
sounds. Interesting characteristics of theses articulators is
that though they are helping to produces speech sounds,
their primary job is to do something else for our body than
articulate speech sounds. Different linguist defines speech
organs in different ways.
Famous linguist David Crystal in his Dictionary of
Linguistics and Phonetics, defines articulator as:
“…any specific part of the vocal apparatus involved in the
production of a sound is called an articulator”
How it works
Unlike most animals that have the ability to communicate
through nonverbal means, most humans produce distinct
words to communicate with one another. Speech is delivered
with much speed; typically, a person who wants to speak does
not need to think too much about what to say. When a
person speaks, his or her thoughts are immediately converted
into a spoken form as soon as the speech organs receive a
signal or instruction from the brain. Therefore, speech occurs
when a person’s brain and speech organs work together,
although the organs of the respiratory system also play an
important role in this process, as the vocal.
David Crystal divides the articulators into two different
ways according to its mobility. They are:
An active articulator is the
articulator that does all or most of
the moving during a speech
gesture. The active articulator is
usually the lower lip or some part
of the tongue. These active
articulators are attached to the jaw
which is relatively free to move
when compared to parts of the
vocal tract connected directly to
the greater mass of the skull.
A passive articulator is the articulator
that makes little or no movement
during a speech gesture. The active
articulator moves towards the relatively
immobile passive articulator. Passive
articulators are often directly
connected to the skull. Passive
articulators include the upper lip, the
upper teeth, the various parts of the
upper surface of the oral cavity, and the
back wall of the pharynx.
The airflow is by far the most
vital requirement for producing
speech sound, since all speech
sounds are made with some
movement of air. The lungs
provide the energy source for
the airflow. The lungs are the
spongy respiratory organs
situated inside the rib cage.
They expand and contract as we
breathe in and out air. The
amount of air accumulated
inside our lungs controls the
pressure of the airflow.
The Larynx & the Vocal Folds
The larynx is colloquially known as the
voice box. It is a box-like small structure
situated in the front of the throat where
there is a protuberance. For this reason the
larynx is popularly called the Adam’s apple.
This casing is formed of cartilages and
muscles. It protects as well as houses the
trachea and the vocal folds .The vocal
folds are like a pair of lips placed
horizontally from front to back. They are
joined in the front but can be separated at
the back. The opening between them is
called glottis. The glottis is considered to be
in open state when the folds are apart, and
when the folds are pressed together the
glottis is considered to be in close state.
The opening of the vocal folds takes different positions:
Wide Apart: When the folds are wide apart they do not vibrate. The sounds produced in
such position are called breathed or voiceless sounds. For example: /p/f/θ/s/.
Narrow Glottis: If the air is passed through the glottis when it is narrowed then there is
an audible friction. Such sounds are also voiceless since the vocal folds do not vibrate.
For example, in English /h/ is a voiceless glottal fricative sound.
Tightly Closed: The vocal folds can be firmly pressed together so that the air cannot pass
between them. Such a position produces a glottal stop / ʔ / (also known as glottal catch,
Touched or Nearly Touched: The major role of the vocal folds is that of a vibrator in the
production of speech. The folds vibrate when these two are touching each other or nearly
touching.. In English all the vowel sounds and the consonants /v/z/m/n/are voiced.
Touched or Nearly Touched
The major role of the vocal folds
is that of a vibrator in the
production of speech. The folds
vibrate when these two are
touching each other or nearly
touching. The pressure of the air
coming from the lungs makes
them vibrate. This vibration of
the folds produces a musical
note called voice. And sounds
produced in such manner are
called voiced sounds. In
English all the vowel sounds
and the consonants
The Pharynx: The pharynx lies between the mouth and the food passage, that is, just
above the larynx. It is just about 7cm long in the case of women and 8cm long in the case
The Roof of the Mouth: The roof of the mouth is considered as a major speech organ. It
is divided into three parts:
The Alveolar Ridge/Teeth Ridge: The alveolar ridge is situated immediately after the
upper front teeth. Some alveolar sounds in English include: /t/d/.
The Hard Palate: The hard palate is the concave part of the roof of the mouth. It is
situated on the middle part of the roof.
The Velum or Soft Palate: The lower part of the roof of the mouth is called soft palate..
When it is lowered, the air stream from the lungs has access to the nasal cavity. When it
is raised the passage to the nasal cavity is blocked. For example: /k/g/.
The Lips: The lips also play an important role in the matter of
articulation. They can be pressed together or brought into
contact with the teeth. The consonant sounds which are
articulated by touching two lips each other are called bilabial
sounds. For example, /p/ and /b/ are bilabial sounds in English.
Whereas, the sounds which are produced with lip to teeth
contact are called labiodental sounds. In English there are two
labiodental sounds: /f/ and /v/.
Another important thing about the lips is that they can take
different shapes and positions. Therefore, lip-rounding is
considered as a major criterion for describing vowel sounds. The
lips may have the following positions:
Rounded: When we pronounce a vowel, our lips can be rounded,
a position where the corners of the lips are brought towards each
other and the lips are pushed forwards. And the resulting vowel
from this position is a rounded one. For example, /ə ʊ/.
Spread: The lips can be spread. In this position the lips are
moved away from each other (i.e. when we smile). For example,
in English /i: /is a long vowel with slightly spread lips.
Neutral: Again, the lips can be neutral, a position where the lips
are not noticeably rounded or spread. For example, in English /ɑ:
/ is a long vowel with neutral lips.
The Teeth: The teeth are also very much helpful in producing various
speech sounds. The sounds which are made with the tongue touching
the teeth are called dental sounds. Some examples of dental sounds
in English include: /θ/ð/.
The Tongue: The tongue is divided into five parts:
a. The tip: It is the extreme end of the tongue.
b. The blade: It lies opposite to the alveolar ridge.
c. The front: It lies opposite to the hard palate.
d. The back: It lies opposite to the soft palate or velum.
e. The root : It lies at the end of the tongue.
The Jaws: Some phoneticians consider the jaws as
articulators, since we move the lower jaw a lot at the time
of speaking. But it should be noted that the jaws are not
articulators in the same way as the others. The main reason
is that they are incapable of making contact with other
articulators by themselves.
The Nose and the Nasal Cavity: The nose and its cavity
may also be considered as speech organs. The sounds
which are produced with the nose are called nasal sounds.
Some nasal sounds in English include: /m/n/ŋ/.
The Uvula: At the end of the soft palate there is a
piece of fresh that dangles over the pharyngeal
passage. It is called the Uvula. It can be vibrated to
produce uvular sounds.
Table of Possible and Impossible Articulations
The following table makes a distinction between
articulations that are actually used contrastively in the
world's languages, articulations that are not used but are
possible, and articulations that are impossible. In some
cases, articulations marked with "***" are actually
physically impossible and in some cases "***" marks
articulations that are too difficult to be considered
serious possibilities for linguistic use.
In the above table:*** means not a possible articulation
--- means not found in any language (so far)
From the above table, it can be seen that places of
articulation are completely specified by both the active and
the passive articulator. Some common articulatory
distinctions are not completely captured by specification of
the passive articulator alone.
Note that, with the exception of the lower lip and the vocal
folds, the majority of active articulators are different parts of
Importance of Organs of Speech
Speech organs are one of the most important subject in the
study of phonetics. The scope of organs of speech is as
important as the scope of phonetics. It helps us to
understand the articulators which are involved in the
production of sounds or phones. A clear conception about
articulators can change the style of any individual’s
pronunciation. The knowledge helps a native more accurate
in his first language (mother tongue). Moreover, it helps a
person to be more native like in his or her second language.
Overall, a well rounded knowledge of organs of speech is not
only necessary for the students of linguistics but also for the
Producing different speech sounds depends on the
movement of speech organs. It is essential to know the
movement and the placement of each organ to produce
particular sounds. The above descriptions and functions
of the organs of speech help a person to produce the
consonants and vowels in a right way.