Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
of completely open breath and that of checked breath, lies the position of true voice. In this position the cords are close together, but not so tightly as to prevent the air from streaming through; the cords are set vibrating and a musical tone of varying pitch results. A tone so produced is known as a voiced sound. It may have an indefinite number of qualities according to the precise position of the upper organs of speech. Our vowels, nasals (such as m and n), and such sounds as b,z, and l are all voiced sounds. The most convenient test of a voiced sound is the possibility of pronouncing it on any given pitch, in other words, of singing on it.6 The voiced sounds are the most clearly audible elements of speech. As such they are the carriers of practically all significant differences in stress, pitch, and syllabification. The voiceless sounds are articulated noises that break up the stream of voice with fleeting moments of silence. Acoustically intermediate between the freely unvoiced and the voiced sounds are a number of other characteristic types of voicing, such as murmuring and whisper.7 These and still other types of voice are relatively unimportant in English and most other European languages, but there are languages in which they rise to some prominence in the normal flow of speech.
The nose is not an active organ of speech, but it is highly important as a resonance chamber. It may be
Note 6. Singing is here used in a wide sense. One cannot sing continuously on such a sound as b or d, but one may easily outline a tune on a series of bs or ds in the manner of the plucked pizzicato on stringed instruments. A series of tones executed on continuant consonants, like m,z, or l, gives the effect of humming, droning, or buzzing. The sound of humming, indeed, is nothing but a continuous voiced nasal, held on one pitch or varying in pitch, as desired. [back]
Note 7. The whisper of ordinary speech is a combination of unvoiced sounds and whispered sounds, as the term is understood in phonetics. [back]