With November being Lung awareness month, I have decided to cover the five components that are essential for normal speech. As you most likely know, our lungs play an important role in making speech happen.
Respiration is the first key component to normal speech, and here is why:
Respiration: The first and most important component of speech is respiration, as without air passing through the speech organs no sound is produced. Respiration provides the subglottal pressure necessary in order for the vocal folds to vibrate. If respiration is not steady or strong enough (e.g. due to nerve damage), speech can sound broken up or weak.
Phonation: This refers to raw sound, and it is produced through vibration of the vocal folds in the Larynx. This requires a build up of air pressure under the vocal folds – when they come together and are closed – then when released, the sound is produced and moves up into the head. If the vocal folds do not properly adduct or close, (e.g. in individuals with nodules) the air escape will cause a croaky or whispery voice.
Resonance: Resonance refers to the channelling of sound through the appropriate cavity out of the body such as the nose or the mouth. This is determined by a structure called the velum which separates the nose and the mouth. When the velum is raised it closes of the nose and the air from the vocal folds are channelled through and out of the oral cavity (the mouth). When the velum is lowered and the oral cavity is closed or blocked by the tongue and lips, the air is channelled up past the velum and into the nose. If the velum cannot be raised or closed off (e.g. individuals with VPI), they may sound hypernasal like Fran Fine, the character from ‘The Nanny’.
Articulation: Articulation refers to the shaping of the air stream by the articulators such as the lips, tongue, teeth and jaw. This shaping can come in the form of narrowing the airstream to make an ‘s’ sound for example or blocking the air momentarily then releasing it such as when we make a ‘t’ sound. Nerve damage of low muscle tone can affect an individual’s ability to manipulate their articulators and therefore result in imprecise slurry sounding speech.
Prosody: This refers to the melody of speech such as stress and intonation. This stress and intonation in itself conveys and changes the meaning of our speech. For example, a phrase such as “You went to the park,” when said in monotone would be interpreted as a statement. However if the same phrase is said with a rising intonation, then it may be interpreted as a question, “You went to the park?”.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.