The valves of the throat and their functioning in tone, vocal register and stress: laryngoscopic case studies 1

Jerold A. Edmondson a1 and John H. Esling a2
a1 University of Texas at Arlington
a2 University of Victoria

Article author query
edmondson ja   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
esling jh   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The standard method of describing phonation for tone, vocal register, stress and other linguistic categories relies on the ‘continuum hypothesis’ that linguistic sounds are produced by means of glottal states determined by the aperture between the arytenoid cartilages, the endpoints of the voiceless–voiced continuum being ‘open glottis’ and ‘closed glottis’. This paper takes a different view, pointing out that many languages make use of a number of valves, and that these valves are not articulations on a glottal continuum but represent a synergistic and hierarchical system of laryngeal articulations. These valves constitute a principal source of phonological contrast, with an influence on how oral articulatory events are characterised.


1 We acknowledge herewith Jimmy G. Harris of the University of Victoria, Michael Mawdsley, MD and Michael Ross, MD, attending physicians, and the STR-Speech Tech Ltd team, Victoria BC, for assistance in the conduct of many of the experiments reported on here. Laryngoscopic research in Victoria was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Thanks also to the editors of this issue, the late Peter Ladefoged, one anonymous reviewer, Leoma Gilley, Deborah Martin and David Silva for comments on the manuscript, and to Edward C. Weisberger, MD and Lesa Blackhurst (Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, Indiana University) for laryngoscopic help with Dinka. Special thanks to our informants: Li Shaoni and Li Suqin (Bai), Akiyo Pahala'an (Amis), Cecile Padayodi (Kabiye), Mohamed H. Mohamoud (Somali) and Bishop Nathaniel Garang, Margaret Kuol, Rev. Bartholomew Bol, Abui Deng and John Nyok (Bor Dinka).Video movies of the examples cited in the text are available as supplementary materials to the online version of the paper, at