Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
are to a clarinet or the strings to a violin. They are capable of at least three distinct types of movement, each of which is of the greatest importance for speech. They may be drawn towards or away from each other, they may vibrate like reeds or strings, and they may become lax or tense in the direction of their length. The last class of these movements allows the cords to vibrate at different lengths or degrees of tenseness and is responsible for the variations in pitch which are present not only in song but in the more elusive modulations of ordinary speech. The two other types of glottal action determine the nature of the voice, voice being a convenient term for breath as utilized in speech. If the cords are well apart, allowing the breath to escape in unmodified form, we have the condition technically known as voicelessness. All sounds produced under these circumstances are voiceless sounds. Such are the simple, unmodified breath as it passes into the mouth, which is, at least approximately, the same as the sound that we write h, also a large number of special articulations in the mouth chamber, like p and s. On the other hand, the glottal cords may be brought tight together, without vibrating. When this happens, the current of breath is checked for the time being. The slight choke or arrested cough that is thus made audible is not recognized in English as a definite sound but occurs nevertheless not infrequently.5 This momentary check, technically known as a glottal stop, is an integral element of speech in many languages, as Danish, Lettish, certain Chinese dialects, and nearly all American Indian languages. Between the two extremes of voicelessness, that
Note 5. As at the end of the snappily pronounced no! (sometimes written nope!) or in the over-carefully pronounced at all, where one may hear a slight check between the t and the a. [back]