Academic journal article Journal of Singing

How Well Does Speech Exercise the Larynx?

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

How Well Does Speech Exercise the Larynx?

Article excerpt

HUMANS LEARN TO VOCALIZE primarily by hearing speech, except in early development when "mommy-talk" is more in the form of pitch glides, giggle, laughter, or coos. When the articulatory component of speech begins to assume a greater role than the prosody component in speech development, vocalization can begin to lose some of the multidimensional aspects of vocal play. Chanting, singing, or meditative vocalization can reverse this trend, but is not a regular activity for many people. Animals communicate well with nonspeech vocalization. Given that their messages are generally not encoded in vowels and consonants, but in variations of pitch, rhythm, periodicity, and spectral content, it could be argued that their laryngeal (or in the case of birds, syringeal) capabilities are exercised better than those of many humans.

One inherent problem with vocalization in a speech context alone is that low fundamental frequency is desirable for clarity of the articulatory component of speech. For this reason, speech occupies a small region in the lower half of a Voice Range Profile (Figure 1), leaving little or no exercise for laryngeal muscles in much of the physiologic range for many people. This "crowding" of vocalization into a small range, with limited variety, may contribute to an overall vocal limitation, and perhaps to some vocal fatigue and voice disorders.

Speech provides lots of exercise in glottal valving-adduction and abduction. Research has shown that school teachers, for example, adduct and abduct their vocal folds between 10,000 and 20,000 times a day. Thus, the adductory and abductory muscles, namely the lateral cricoarytenoid, the interarytenoid, the posterior cricoarytenoid (and to some degree the thyroarytenoid muscles) get plenty of short burst activity. …

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