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Acoustics of the Vowel


Dieter Maurer

It seems as if the fundamentals of how we produce vowels and how they are acoustically represented have been clarified: we phonate and articulate. Using our vocal chords, we produce a vocal sound or noise which is then shaped into a specific vowel sound by the resonances of the pharyngeal, oral, and nasal cavities, that is, the vocal tract. Accordingly, the acoustic description of vowels relates to vowelspecific patterns of relative energy maxima in the sound spectra, known as patterns of formants.
The intellectual and empirical reasoning presented in this treatise, however, gives rise to scepticism with respect to this understanding of the sound of the vowel. The reflections and materials presented provide reason to argue that, up to now, a comprehensible theory of the acoustics of the voice and of voiced speech sounds is lacking, and consequently, no satisfying understanding of vowels as an achievement and particular formal accomplishment of the voice exists. Thus, the question of the acoustics of the vowel – and with it the question of the acoustics of the voice itself – proves to be an unresolved fundamental problem.
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2015959255

Published with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation within the scope of the pilot project OAPEN-CH.

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Published as volume 12 of the series subTexte, edited by Anton Rey, Institute for the Performing Arts and Film, University of the Arts, Zurich.

Layout and cover design: Jacques Borel, Zurich

ISBN 978-3-0343-2031-3 pb.ISBN 978-3-0351-0912-2 eBook

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