Speech is more than just the act of speaking........

What is speech?

When most people consider speech,they think of lip and tongue movements and the sounds that link them.Speech is more than an act of speaking. It is concerned with both the production and reception of spoken messages; often called the "speech chain".

Speech provides the most efficent method of communicating with each other even in a different language.

It is resilient to background noise, interference and distortion. We can usually understand speech despite different voices or accents and even on the telephone, where we have no visual clues.

Speech Production

The vocal tract includes the larynx, (containing vocal chords) commonly referred to as the voice box, pharynx (throat) and the articulators, the soft and hard palates, tongue, teeth, jaw,nasal cavity.

The sounds that comprise speech can be generally divided into two types,


Voiced sounds are are produced in the voice box, or larynx, by means of air expelled from the lungs and vibrated by the vocal chords. The larynx acts as a valve between the throat and lungs, able to open and close to control the airflow. The vocal chords are are really folds of ligament. As we speak (voiced sounds I.E. vowels asnd voiced consants) the vocal chords vibrate causing compressions and refractions in the flow of air.

The fundamental frequency determines the pitch of the speaker's voice and is known as the fundamental laryngeal tone'(FLT). It is not fixed and depends on the rate of vibration of the vocal chords; tightening the vocal chords produces faster vibration and therefore higher frequency energy. voiced speech sounds are complex, periodic sounds. Vocal cord vibration contains nearly all harmonics in a simple pattern, falling off at about 125Db per octave.


Air is expelled from the lungs but the vocal chords are not vibrated. Voiceless speech sounds are complex, aperiodic sounds,i.e. noise.

The shape and size fo the cavities of the mouth can be widely varied by moving the soft palate, tongue, jaw and lips; known as articulators. The articulators convert both voiced and voiceless sounds into recognisable speech sounds.

Speech Sounds

Speech is made up of a series of sounds that are formed into words. The individual sounds are called phonemes and are the smallest units of speech sound.Phonemes are not the same as syllables but can be thought of as the building blocks from which syllables and words are made.

There are speech pathology resources to help communication between people.

This site page provides links to a series of web pages that feature a range of language intervention techniques that you can use in your school or at home with school age students

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