SPEECH MECHANISM & PRODUCTION

The human body functions well like a machine. It has its organs which act like a machine part. It has its own unique functions and could also be dysfunctional or malfunctioning thus it requires maintenance and check-ups as well. In this blog you will be familiarized with how speech functions as a mechanism.

Speech is the communication or expression of thoughts in spoken words (Merriam-Webter’s Dictionary, n.d.).

Mechanism refers to either a system of parts working together or a natural or established process by which something takes place or is brought about. (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.).

Speech Mechanism therefore pertains to the system of psychophysiological prerequisites that enable a human being to make meaningful utterances and to understand one another.

How does it work?

Speech production is divided into four parts namely respiration, phonation, resonance, and articulation.

  1. Respiration — concerns with the conservation of life and assists in vocalization. It consists of two phases: inhalation and exhalation.

· Responsible Parts — Lungs and diaphragm

Lungs serve as the reservoir of air. Inhaling fills the lungs comfortably in preparation for speaking.

Diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. It is what gives pressure to the breath stream.

2. Phonation — happens during the point when the voice is produced for speaking or singing.

· Responsible Parts — Larynx and Trachea

Larynx is cartilaginous box-shaped part of the respiratory tract between the level of the root of the tongue and the top of the trachea. Its protuberance is called “Adam’s apple” and houses the vocal chords.

Trachea is the passageway of air going up from the lungs thus its dub “windpipe”.

3. Resonance — its purpose is to strengthen and enrich the quality of the voice produced during the phonation. It is where voices get amplified and modified via human resonators.

· Responsible Parts — Pharynx, nose, and mouth

Pharynx is situated behind the nose and mouth and includes the cavity at the back of the tongue. Furthermore, it serves as passageways for both food and air.

Nose is the part of the face or head through which a person or animal breathes and smells. It is a place for the sound and air to be released.

Mouth is divided into the vestibule and the oral cavity proper.

Vestibule — felt by placing the tongue tip outside the teeth but inside the lips

Oral cavity — felt by retracting the tongue, closing the jaws and moving the tongue about.

4. Articulation — happens when the tone produced by larynx is adopted into specific sounds.

· Responsible Parts — Lips, teeth, dome/hard palate, uvula, velum/soft palate, and tongue.

Lips act as a producer of various sounds mainly labial, bilabial (which includes the production of /p/, /b/, /m/, /hw/, and /w/ sounds), and labio-dental consonant sounds (including /f/ and /v/).

Teeth are structures found in jaws and are capable of producing labio-dental consonant sounds (including /f/ and /v/) as well as the lingua-dental sounds like /ð/and/θ/.

Dome/hard palate is a thin horizontal bony plate of the skull, found in the mouth’s roof. With the help of the tongue, it is capable of producing /t/, /d/, and /j/ sounds.

Uvula works with the back of the throat, the palate, and the air coming up from the lungs to produce various guttural sounds.

Velum/soft palate requires the formation of holes that function during speech to separate the oral cavity (mouth) from the nose, in order to produce the oral speech sounds. The lacking of this separation encourages the air to flow through the nose, making the speech a hypernasal one.

Tongue possesses a wide variety of possible movements, aids in the formation of the sounds of speech. It has three distinct parts namely the back-middle (Dorsum), teeth-front (Blade), and the tip (Apex) Glottis.

How do we produce human speech?

It all starts with respiration, followed by the production of sound in the phonation, then improved by resonance before finally given specifications via articulation.

I hope that you’ve learned a thing or two

-Jerwin Basas