Alaryngeal speech

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Alaryngeal speech is speech made using sources other than the glottis in the larynx to create voice sound. There are three types: esophageal, buccal and pharyngeal speech. Each of these uses an alternative method of creating speech-like phonation to that normally provided by the vocal cords. These forms of alaryngeal speech are also called “pseudo-voices".[1]

Esophageal speech[edit]

Main article: Esophageal speech

Esophageal speech uses air supply to create phonation from the esophagus and pharyngo-esophageal segment to act as a replacement for the glottis. It is usually acquired following speech therapy after laryngectomy as a replacement for laryngeal speech.[2]

Buccal speech[edit]

This is created by producing an air bubble between the left (or right) upper jaw and the cheek that can act as an alternative “lung”. The person then uses muscular action to drive the air through a small gap between or behind the teeth into the mouth. The sound so produced makes a high rough sound. This then is articulated to make speech.[3][4] It is usually acquired as a taught or self-learnt skill for entertainment. It can be used as a method of singing.[3] It is also known as Donald Duck talk[5] due to its use by Clarence Charles "Ducky" Nash for the voice of the Disney Donald Duck character.

  • sung buccal voice can have a range of three octaves (69 Hz to 571 Hz)
  • maximum duration of phonation for a series of sustained vowels is 2 seconds.
  • oral reading can be done at 131 wpm
  • from most intelligible to least: glides, fricatives, plosives, affricates, and nasals.
  • on rhyme-test 76% of buccal spoken words were intelligible.
  • buccal speech is more than two octaves above that of esophageal speakers (this gives it a raised pitch compared to normal speech).

Pharyngeal speech[edit]

This is created by producing the air supply needed for phonation in the pharynx and creating a replacement for the glottis using the tongue and the upper alveolus, the palate, or the pharyngeal wall.[1][6]

In one case it was studied in a 12 year old girl that used following tracheotomy at 2 years of age as her exclusive form of speech.[6] Such speech was impaired in spite of ten years of her exclusive use of it for communication. Half her time while speaking was silence. Of the other half, half that was spent creating “quasiperiodic” speech-like sound and half noise. This produced an “unpleasant, markedly hoarse voice quality which was consistently evident in her pharyngeal speech.[6] This contrasts with skilled esophageal speakers that spend less than 20% of their time producing noise. Such speech has limited success in making some place of articulation and especially manner of articulation and voicing phonetic distinctions. Also there are difficulties in creating consonant clusters and polysyllabic words.[1] Such speech was "generally well understood by immediate family members" but "reported to be largely unintelligible to outsiders".[1]


Pharyngeal speech can be produced in the early stages of learning esophageal speech. However both buccal and pharyngeal speech are less clear than trained esophageal speech and “should not be regarded as a desirable or practical primary method of alaryngeal speech”.[6]

A further importance is to theories of the evolution of human speech since alaryngeal speech shows that speech is not dependent entirely upon evolved anatomy as it can be created using vocal tract anatomy in an adaptive manner.


  1. ^ a b c d Khaila H, House J, Cavalli L, Nash E. (2007). A phonetic and phonological study of so-called ‘buccal’ speech produced by two long-term tracheostomised children Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences.
  2. ^ Diedrich WM. Youngstrom KA. (1966). Alaryngeal Speech. Springfield, Ill.: Thomas OCLC 347249
  3. ^ a b Weinberg B, Westerhouse J. (1971). A study of buccal speech. J Speech Hear Res. 14(3):652-8. PMID 5163900
  4. ^ Van Gilse PHG. (1948). Another Method of Speech Without Larynx. Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 36, Supplement 78, 109 – 110. doi:10.3109/00016484809122642
  5. ^ Bleile KM. (2003). Manual of articulation and phonological disorders: infancy through adulthood. Cengage Learning ISBN 978-0-7693-0256-0 page 67
  6. ^ a b c d Weinberg B, Westerhouse J. (1973). A study of pharyngeal speech. J Speech Hear Disord. 38(1):111-8. PMID 4698378

See also[edit]

External references[edit]

Esophageal speech
Buccal speech (Donald Duck talk)