8.1 Phonetic & Phonological Analysis: Do you know the various places of articulation of human speech?

Chapter 8

8.1 Provide an explanation on the role of placement of speech organs in the articulation of  human speech

Classification according to place of articulation

 The Places of Articulation

The place of articulation of a human speech sound is according to the distribution of speech organs along the vocal tract, from the larynx to the lips. These speech organs shape the airflow audibly in different ways.

Major Articulatory Areas and Articulations

The major articulation areas are defined in terms of the vocal tract. The vocal tract specifies all the areas in which it is possible to articulate human speech sounds. The tract is divided into three major areas or cavities

  • nasal cavity/ area
  • oral
  • pharyngeal – laryngeal

Diagram 1: The vocal tract

Related image

 The nasal area/ cavity

This cavity starts at the nostril s, goes through the nasal passage and up to a lowered velum (Cf. Diagram 1). The lowered velum closes off the oral passage of air. All the sounds articulated with a lowered velum are called nasals.

Nasals are articulated with modification of the airstream by the articulating organs in the mouth. There are no articulating organs in the nasal passage. Therefore, no stricture type takes place in the nasal cavity itself. However, due to the lowering of the velum, the higher percentage of air flows out through the nasal cavity.


Constriction of air in the nostril is not known to be exploited in any language for the articulation of human speech sounds.


 The oral cavity or area

The oral cavity starts at the lips, through the mouth and up to a raised velum (Cf. Diagram 1). All the sounds are produced with a raised velum that blocks the flow of air through the nasal cavity. So all air flows out through the oral cavity.

The oral cavity is used for the majority of the human speech sounds. Articulations are through the juxtaposition of lower articulators and the upper articulators. The lower articulators are also known as the active articulators. They include the lower lip, the lower teeth and the tongue.

The upper articulators are known as the passive articulators. They include the upper lip, upper teeth and roof of the mouth.


The Pharyngeo-laryngeal cavity

There are two sub-division here.

a) The pharyngeal articulations are formed in the pharynx. The pharyngeal wall acts as the articulator. Because they cannot form a complete closure, sounds formed are fricative. There are only two pharyngeal sounds. They are formed with a gag-reflex i.e. chocking reflex e.g. (h) which utilized the muscles of the diaphragm. It is produced with what is called induced contraction of the pharynx. {G} Voiced {h} voiceless.

b) The glottis articulations are formed in the laryngeal area through the constriction of the vocal chords e.g. glottal stop and voiceless fricative. In the formation of glottal stops, the epiglottis forms a complete closure with the larynx. In articulating fricatives, the epiglottis forms a close approximation closure e.g. stop{?}, fricative {h} – voiceless and {h} – voiced. Sounds formed in the larynx are glottal and those formed in the pharynx are called pharyngeal. The pharyngeo-laryngeal area gives only five speech sounds.



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