UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
I know we have a vocal box, but I do not know how the vocal box works. Could you help? We do not have any reference book that I could use to look up this topic.
Question Date: 1998-05-08
Answer 1:

HI! Look up this website to see how an artificial voice box works... http://www.research.att.com/history/29lary.html
Looking at this website will help you understand how a simple voice box works, and then you can learn how a real voice box works. The voice box is also called a larynx (sounds like lair-inks). You need air from your lungs
flowing across a piece of tissue or material that will create the sounds that we recognize as speech. These materials are called vocal chords in our bodies, but if they are not working, a person can use an artificial larynx instead.

Instead of vibrating vocal chords, see if you can figure out what they would use! (If you have internet access, don't peek at the next part until you read the website, okay? If you don't have internet access, think about the question and then, read on!)

A person who needs to use an ARTIFICIAL larynx to speak, forces air from their lungs to vibrate a metal reed inside a tube to create sound vibrations. As you can see from the website picture, they hold the metal reed in the tube against their throat (this is where a real larynx would be
on this person, if it was working properly). They then used their mouth, lips and tongue to "shape" the vibrations from the reed into speech patterns, just like we do when we speak.

Check out this page for anatomy (body diagrams) of the larynx: http://www.med.jhu.edu/voice/larynx.html

For a cool quicktime movie of an laryngeal endoscopy (they stick a little tube with a camera down your throat and film your vocal cords moving!) see this page. Find the movie half-way down the page under the title of "Video Stroboscopy" :

Answer 2:

Your vocal box, also called the larynx (LAIR-inks), is made out of cartilage (the same as the "gristle" on the ends of chicken bones).Inside it are flaps that can close or open to allow different amounts of air through them, these are the vocal cords. They are part of the walls of the larynx and they have muscles to control them. If the cords are pulled back so that they don't vibrate, the passing air makes (almost) no noise. If the vocal cords are partially closed, they vibrate. This vibration is the sound we hear. Try cutting off the end of a balloon. Now when you blow through it, it's noisy. Our vocal cords aren't this floppy, but you'll get the idea. If you pinch part of the end of the balloon, the noise will have a higher pitch. By opening and closing the vocal cords, we can produce sounds that are high or low.

You may be thinking, "Hey, that's just noise, not speech." That's true, because speech requires the use of our lips and tongues to modify the noise. You can't talk using only your vocal cords.

On the throats of adult men, you can see the outline of the larynx, also called the "Adam's apple". The larynx is not visible on the throats females or younger males. Why not? (hint: which has a lower tone, a tuba or a bugle?)

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use