Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of
phonetics. Among some phoneticians, "phonation" is the process by which the vocal foldsproduce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology and speech production in general.
To others, though, this process is called voicing. Phonation refers instead to any oscillatory state of any part of the
larynxthat modifies the airstream, of which voicing is just one. As such, voiceless and supra-glottal phonation are included under this definition but are not considered types of phonation under the former definition. This definition is common in the field of linguistic phonetics.
The phonatory process
The phonatory process, or voicing, occurs when air is expelled from the lungs through the
glottis, creating a pressure drop across the larynx. When this drop becomes sufficiently large, the vocal folds start to oscillate. The minimum pressure drop required to achieve phonation is called the phonation threshold pressure, and for humans with normal vocal folds, it is approximately 2-3 cm H2O. The motion of the vocal folds during oscillation is mostly in the lateral direction, though there is also some superior component as well. However, there is almost no motion along the length of the vocal folds. The oscillation of the vocal folds serves to modulate the pressure and flow of the air through the larynx, and this modulated airflow is the main component of the sound of most voiced phones.
The sound that the larynx produces is a harmonic series. In other words, it consists of a fundamental tone (called the fundamental frequency, the main acoustic cue for the percept pitch) accompanied by harmonic overtones which are multiples of the fundamental frequency [Titze, I. R. (2008). The human instrument. Sci.Am. 298 (1):94-101. PM 18225701] [Titze, I.R. (1994). Principles of Voice Production, Prentice Hall (currently published by NCVS.org), ISBN 978-0137178933.] . According to the Source-Filter Theory, the resulting sound excites the resonance chamber that is the
vocal tractto produce the individual speech sounds. cite book
title= Speech physiology, speech perception, and acoustic phonetics
coauthors= Sheila Blumstein
publisher= Cambridge University Press
isbn= 0521313570] cite book
title= The Voice and its Disorders
coauthors= Lesley Mathieson
publisher= John Wiley & Sons; 6th Edition edition
The vocal folds will not oscillate if they are not sufficiently close to one another, are not under sufficient tension or under too much tension, or if the pressure drop across the larynx is not sufficiently large. In linguistics, a
phoneis called voiceless if there is no phonation during its occurrence. In speech, voiceless phones are associated with vocal folds that are elongated, highly tensed, and placed laterally (abducted) when compared to vocal folds during phonationcite book
title= Speech and hearing science : anatomy and physiology
publisher= Allyn and Bacon; 4th edition
isbn= 0138274371] .
Fundamental frequency, the main acoustic cue for the percept "pitch", can be varied through a variety of means. Large scale changes are accomplished by increasing the tension in the vocal folds through contraction of the cricothyroid muscle. Smaller changes in tension can be effected by contraction of the thyroarytenoid muscle or changes in the relative position of the thyroid and cricoid cartilages, as may occur when the larynx is lowered or raised, either volitionally or through movement of the tongue to which the larynx is attached via the hyoid bone. In addition to tension changes, fundamental frequency is also affected by the pressure drop across the larynx, which is mostly affected by the pressure in the lungs, and will also vary with the distance between the vocal folds. Variation in fundamental frequency is used linguistically to produce intonation and tone.
There are currently two main theories as to how vibration of the
vocal foldsis initiated: the myoelastic theory and the aerodynamic theory [Titze, I. R. (2006).The Myoelastic Aerodynamic Theory of Phonation, Iowa City:National Center for Voice and Speech, 2006.] . These two theories are not in contention with one another and it is quite possible that both theories are true and operating simultaneously to initiate and maintain vibration. A third theory, the neurochronaxic theory, was in considerable vogue in the 1950s, but has since been largely discredited.cite book
title= The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults
publisher= Genovex Music Group
The myoelastic theory
This theory states that when the
vocal cordsare closed and breath pressure is applied to them, the cords remain closed until the pressure beneath them--the subglottic pressure--is sufficient to push them apart, allowing air to escape and reducing the pressure enough for the muscle tension to pull the folds back together again. Pressure builds up once again until the cords are pushed apart, and the whole cycle keeps repeating itself. The rate at which the cords open and close--the number of cycles per second--determines the pitch of the phonation.
The aerodynamic theory
This theory is based on the Bernoulli effect. The theory states that breath is flowing through the
glottiswhile the arytenoid cartilages are being pulled together by the action of the interarytenoid muscles. Due to the Bernoulli Effect, the breath flowing past the vocal foldscauses them to be sucked into vibration before the arytenoids are fully together. When the arytenoidshave been pulled together, this same air flow sucks the glottis closed, thus cutting off the air flow until breath pressure pushes the folds apart and the flow starts up again, causing the cycles to repeat.
The neurochronaxic theory
This theory states that the frequency of the vocal fold vibration is determined by the chronaxy of the recurrent nerve, and not by breath pressure or muscular tension. Advocates of this theory thought that every single vibration of the vocal folds was due to an impulse from the recurrent laryngeal nerves and that the acoustic center in the brain regulated the speed of vocal fold vibration. Speech and voice scientist have long since left this theory as the muscles have been shown to not be able to contract fast enough to accomplish the vibration. In addition, persons with paralyzed vocal folds can produce phonation, which would not be possible according to this theory. Phonation occurring in excised larynges would also not be possible according to this theory.
The myoelastic aerodynamic theory
The Myoelastic-Aerodynamic Theory of Phonation [Titze, I. R. (2006).The Myoelastic Aerodynamic Theory of Phonation, Iowa City:National Center for Voice and Speech, 2006.] is essentially a combination of the two described above and is currently the most accepted theory of phonation by voice and speech scientists and vocologists.Fact|date=June 2008
Phonation as the state of the glottis
In linguistic phonetic treatments of phonation, such as those of
Peter Ladefoged, phonation was considered to be a matter of points on a continuum of tension and closure of the vocal cords. More intricate mechanisms were occasionally described, but they were difficult to investigate, and until recently the state of the glottis and phonation were considered to be nearly synonymous.SOWL]
If the vocal cords are completely relaxed, with the arytenoid cartilages apart for maximum airflow, the cords do not vibrate. This is voiceless phonation, and is extremely common with
obstruents. If the arytenoids are pressed together for glottal closure, the vocal cords block the airstream, producing stop sounds such as the glottal stop. In between there is a sweet spotof maximum vibration. This is modal voice, and is the normal state for vowels and sonorants in all the world's languages. However, the aperture of the arytenoid cartilages, and therefore the tension in the vocal cords, is one of degree between the end points of open and closed, and there are several intermediate situations utilized by various languages to make contrasting sounds.
For example, Gujarati has vowels with a partially lax phonation called
breathy voiceor murmured, while Burmese has vowels with a partially tense phonation called creaky voiceor laryngealized. Both of these phonations have dedicated IPA diacritics, an under-umlaut and under-tilde. The Jalapa dialect of Mazatec is unusual in contrasting both with modal voice in a three-way distinction. (Note that Mazatec is a tonal language, so the glottis is making several tonal distinctions simultaneously with the phonation distinctions.)
Elements of laryngeal articulation or phonation may occur widely in the world's languages as phonetic detail even when not phonemically contrastive. For example, simultaneous glottal, ventricular, and arytenoid activity (for something other than
epiglottal consonants) has been observed in Tibetan, Korean, Nuuchahnulth, Nlaka’pamux, Thai, Sui, Amis, Pame, Arabic, Tigrinya, Cantonese, and Yi.
Phonation in familiar languages
In languages such as French, all
obstruents occur in pairs, one modally voiced and one voiceless.Fact|date=February 2008
In English, every voiced
fricativecorresponds to a voiceless one. For the pairs of English plosives, however, the distinction is better specified as voice onset timerather than simply voice: In initial position /b d g/ are only partially voiced (voicing begins during the hold of the consonant), while /p t k/ are aspirated (voicing doesn't begin until well after its release).Fact|date=February 2008
morphemes have voiced and voiceless allomorphs, such as the plural, verbal, and possessive endings spelled "-s" (voiced in "kids" IPA|/kdz/ but voiceless in "kits" IPA|/kts/) and the past-tense ending spelled "-ed" (voiced in "buzzed" IPA|/bzd/ but voiceless in "fished" IPA|/ft/.Fact|date=February 2008
A few European languages, such as Finnish, have no phonemically voiced
obstruents but pairs of long and short consonants instead. Outside of Europe, a lack of voicing distinctions is not uncommon; indeed, in Australian languagesit is nearly universal. In languages without the distinction between voiceless and voiced obstruents, it is often found that they are realized as voiced in voiced environments such as between vowels, and voiceless elsewhere.
speech register, a subset of a language used in a particular social setting."
phonology, a register is a combination of tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological parameter. For example, among its vowels, Burmese combines modal voice with low tone, breathy voice with falling tone, creaky voice with high tone, and glottal closure with high tone. These four registers contrast with each other, but no other combination of phonation (modal, breath, creak, closed) and tone (high, low, falling) is found.
Among vocal pedagogists and speech pathologists, a vocal register also refers to a particular phonation limited to a particular range of pitch, which possesses a characteristic sound quality.cite journal
title= Towards an Integrated Physiologic-Acoustic Theory of Vocal Registers
journal= The NATS Bulletin
pages= 30–35] The term "register" may be used for several distinct aspects of the human voice::
* A particular part of the
vocal range, such as the upper, middle, or lower registers, which may be bounded by vocal breaks
* A particular phonation
resonancearea such as chest voiceor head voice
* A certain vocal
Four combinations of these elements are identified in speech pathology: the
vocal fry register, the modal register, the falsetto register, and the whistle register.
List of phonetics topics
Voice onset time
* [http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/page4.htm Universität Stuttgart Speech production]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.