The Origin of Sound Patterns in Vocal Tract Constraints

  • John J. Ohala


The ultimate task of phonology is to discover the causes of the behavior of speech sounds. To do this phonologists must refer to the way speech is created and used by humans, including how it is stored in the brain, retrieved, executed, perceived, and used to facilitate social interaction among humans. The domain of phonology is therefore mind, matter, and manners. This chapter is about matter: some aerodynamic and anatomical properties of the vocal tract and how they influence the shape and patterning of speech sounds. A secondary aim of this chapter is to show not only that the study of the physical aspects of speech assists phonology but also that phonology can return the favor: A careful, perhaps inspired, analysis of sound patterns in language can help us to discover and understand some of the complexities of speech production (Ohala, 1975a, 1975b, 1978a, 1978b, 1980, 1981; Ohala & Riordan, 1979; Shattuck-Hufnagel, Chapter 6, this volume; MacKay, 1972).


Vocal Cord Speech Sound Sound Pattern Sound Change Voiceless Stop 
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  • John J. Ohala

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