ASK THE WIZARD What makes each human voice distinct? RUBY, NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Brief Article
Charles B. Simpson, of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, answers:
Several components give the human voice its distinctive characteristics. The vocal cords provide the sound source for speech, while the lungs generate the airflow. The length and thickness of the vocal cords determine the pitch of the voice, but the cords contribute only a small part to the overall voice. At least as important are the unique sound of a person’s voice. Last the muscle in the tongue, palate, and lips provide articulation–accent, lisp, etc. In combination, these factors allow a considerable amount of variation in voice characteristics. Individuals who are particularly gifted at imitating others’ voices have excellent voluntary control of the muscles of the throat, tongue, and lips, enabling them to approximate the sound of another person’s voice.
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