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Speech sound overview and introduction to consonants

How speech sounds are produced?

The organs involved in speech sound production form a tube extending from the lungs to the lips. The part of this tube above the larynx is the vocal tract, which includes the pharynx, the mouth, and the nose.

The air stream from the lungs is the energy source for producing speech sounds. But this air stream is not audible. Three means convert the air stream into an audible buzz and they are the vibration of the vocal folds, the constriction of the air stream at some point along the vocal tract, and the blocking and the sudden release of the air stream. Those three means help to form an air obstruction along the vocal tract. Such articulators as the tongue, the teeth, and the palates then transform this audible buzz into a distinguishable speech sound by altering the shape of the vocal tract.

Based on whether there is an air obstruction in the vocal tract, we can classify speech sounds into two big groups: the vowels, which are the sounds produced not by an air obstruction in the vocal tract, and the consonants, which are characterized by an air obstruction in varying degrees.


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