Process of Speech (An Old and Rare Book)
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Process of Speech (An Old and Rare Book)

Item Code: NAM080
Author: C. R. Sankaran
Publisher: Deccan College Postgraduate and Research Institute
Language: English
Edition: 1963
Pages: 100 (61 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 7.5 inch
Weight 190 gm
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1.0. Physiology of Speech

Physiology is the science of function. It shows us what the organs do in relation to one another, indicating the functional relationships of organ to organ in the harmonious behaviour of the organism as a unit. Physiology, in short, is therefore the science of behaviour. Here, obviously we are concerned with speech- behaviour.

In general, all normal speech and Voice sounds trace their first stimulating source to an energy which originates in a pressure on the lungs; clicks are an exception, as they are caused by the making and breaking of contact.

We, obviously, disregard the source of the nerve impulse, for the present as we have, in these preliminary studies, chosen to refer purely to the physical and mechanical origin of sound in the human mechanism, when we state that the energy originating from a pressure on the lungs is the first stimulating source for speech-sounds.

Before we go into the anatomy of the lungs and the so-called speech-organs- it would be profitable to examine the physiology of the speech-sounds.

Movements of parts of the mouth, nose, throat and lungs are responsible for the production of speech-sounds. It may be remembered that a few parts such as lips and tongue alone can move within the vocal-apparatus. The mastery of the general type of movements these parts undergo is necessary for articulating the sounds of any language, as only combinations of these variables (such as the movements of the tongue and the lips) constitute the sounds of all languages.

Now, one can also represent graphically the sounds of any language through formulas to represent these movements of the tongue and the lips.

1.1. Phonetic Alphabet

A phonetic alphabet constitutes a series of such formulas.

Let us take an example

‘b’ represents a movement of the lungs which thrusts air upward and outward through the throat, past the vibrating vocal cords, into the mouth.

The symbol shows further that in the mouth the air stream is temporarily but completely interrupted by a closure of the passage through the nose, and by a closure at lips of the passage through the mouth.

It is interesting to note here in the most ancient Tamil grammar–– TOLKAP-PIYAM––the term elutta was used to connote the “sound-classes”. Later, elutta perhaps came to mean the phonetic alphabet as well, from which sense it has now passed on into a more loose usage too.

1.2. The Production of Speech-Sounds

The speech-sounds are produced by a moving column of air passing through a narrow orifice in the month, nose or throat, such an air-column can be controlled at its outlet.

There may also be further interferences with the air-stream between its point of origin and its point of escape. But we must ever remember that ultimately it is our own particular habitual way of responding selectively to the stimuli of speech which is responsible for the block––view of the various so-called speech- sounds. Actually when we speak, we do not send out the various bricks of speech-sounds, but merely the continuous acoustic pressure-variations in the medium of air.

Through a largely unconscious process involving past memory from early infancy, we establish a quick correspondence between the past situation and the present one and it has been our common measure to do an arbitrary quantisation to divide all spoken sounds into phonemes.

So one has to steer one’s course circumspectly between the Scylla of over-simplification, swearing by a ready-made physiology of speech-sounds and the charybdis of obscurity, going to the other extreme of the highly specialized field of the “Utterance-continuum” and its vast implications, although we have to bear in mind that even the most abstruse principles of a living science are surely amenable to lucid exposition.

2.0. Biophysics of Speech. Speech is a complex of bilateral physiological processes of interaction between two or more individuals, which proceeds continuously and simultaneously among all the participants each one continuously expressing himself and under-standing the other’s silence, speech, gesture or other significant movement or state.

If while speaking, one fixes one’s attention upon the movements of the tongue and jaw, the sensation of touch (pressure) and muscle strain (in the jaw but not all in the tongue) will be more vivid and distinct; and if one particularly notes the sounds of the voice, the auditory sensations will also be clear and distinct. Speech is therefore, a complex group of movements and sensations (sounds, vision, touch, kinaesthesis). Speech, far from being static, is under-going continual evolution, like other life activities, both in the individual and the race. Refined and delicate observation by the use of accurate instruments for recording speech movements and nervous currents of action, establishes the fact that contrary to the general impression, human speech is an integration of the activities of all the tissues of the body.

2.1. Speech as an Integrated Function of all the Tissues.

Since human speech may be described as an integrated functioning of all the tissues of the body, i.e. of all coefficients of activity of the tissues, it may be expressed in mathematical form thus:– Sp= f (a, b, c, ....m, n, ....x, y, z,) in which the factors a.......m.......x....... are the activities of the various tissues (muscular, nervous, glandular, bone, etc.)

This formula not only expresses the integrative character of speech but also emphasises the fact that any change of the factor a, b, etc necessitates a new value for speech.

Furthermore all the factors are necessary to normal speech. The student of phonetics can not afford to disregard any of these processes, whether nutritional, muscular, nervous or glandular.

As far as we know, the only demonstrable means we have of revealing subjective experiences are muscular movements and glandular secretion. All living organisms have the power of movement (even those that are so simple in structure that they have no specifically developed muscle tissues) and even the simplest unicellular organisms (bacteria, etc) doubtless have a function analogous to glandular secretion. These are undoubtedly forerunners of those more complicated movements and secretions which constitute human speech.

Ordinarily, muscular movement is not thought of as part of the speech process. In most text books on phonetics, muscular movement plays a negligible or even a negative role, although most phoneticists describe in some detail the ‘Positions’ which the oral cavity is supposed to take in the articulation of speech sounds. Even books on the “Physiology of Speech” go no further than to give a description of the gross movements of the “speech–organs”, neglecting the physiological processes which determine them.

2.2. The Role of the Muscular Movements in Speech Production.

Muscular movement is a factor upon which the student of phonetics should fix particular attention. To him, it is all important. Indeed, if the word phonetics, science of speech sounds, were not so thoroughly established in usage, it might be better to call the science kinematics, or science of expressive movements.

“Myomatics” has been suggested. WEST and KANTNER entitled their book in 1933. ‘KINESIOLOGIC PHONETICS’. The study of “Phonetics” is first and foremost a study of movements., whether in speech or in song.

The sound is only a secondary result produced by the movements, and its quality is determined mainly by the movements. ROUDET, discussing the history of phonetic science, calls attention to the older static “Phonetics” as compared with the more modern “Descriptive phonetics”.

2.3. The Four Stages; Of Development of Phonetic Science.

In reality, every science has passed through four stages of development.

There are first (i) extra-anthropological explanation of phenomena i.e. superstition. Then follow a period of (ii) Description and a period of (iii) empiricism. These three periods are marked by a dominance of static “values”. All sciences however, keeping pace with the advancing organism of truth, have pushed onward into a fourth period. The methods of this period involve objective recording, accurate measurement and experimentation with instruments of exactitude. Its subject matter is also new. We no longer discuss speech as a ‘gift of God’, nor as significant sounds, nor as ‘positions’ of the speech organs, but as dynamic processes of all the tissues of the body. The study of “Phonetics”, in short, is taking on the character of applied physiology.

Students of voice and speech must become, familiar with the nature of movement (regarded as a physiological process), with the accuracy of movement, the correlation of simultaneous and successive movements etc. The ‘carry’ of the voice, the clearness of utterance, qualities so essential to the public speaker, are fundamentally the result of accurate and effective muscle control. The volume and richness of tone, along with clear-cut diction sought for by the professional speaker or singer, can be secured only by the proper manipulation of the muscles.

The student of language who has acquired a masterful control over the muscles has surmounted half the difficulties in acquiring foreign language. All the finesse and charm of utterance, the innumerable effects of intonation, crescendo and diminuendo, are resultant only from the skilful handling of the muscles. Such qualities of voice as nasal twang, nasalization are easily attained or avoided by those who have learned to control their vocal muscles. Imitation of dialects, inaccurate pronunciation, transfer of speech habits (melody, accent, etc) to a language to which they are foreign as Malabar-Tamil and Tanjore-Marathi, are all accomplished or brought about by variations in muscular movement.

The fundamental importance of muscular movement as an element of the communicative process makes it imperative that in the handling of any problem of speech and phonetics, muscular movement should form the basis of the work, while sounds should be grouped about study of movements and treated as secondary products of the tissue activities. So one should accustom oneself to think of ‘sounds’ in terms of the movements of muscles which produce them, but never divorcing the movements from the sensory nervous activities (meaning) with which they are organically connected.

2.4. Muscle-Physiology and Speech.

In a paper published in Zeitschrift fur Phonetik, I am discussing the relations of tetanus to simple contraction in muscle-physiology in terms of the language used in electronics. I am pointing out in that paper that the significant approximate time-interval for conscious perception (in the method of orthogonal polynomial fitting B. CHAITANYA DEVA has adopted) can be compared favourably with the almost same ‘Time-interval’ for the dilatating contraction opening a valve (which is one of the components of the hypha-the ‘unit’ of speech–according to C.L. MEADER and J. H. MUYSKENS), indicating there by a possible like between our suggestion of a way of measuring the alpha-phonoid from the point of view of perception of speech to its production too from the point of view of muscle-physiology in the wake of MEADER-MUYSKEN’s work.

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