Vocal language

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Vocal language, or oral language,[1] is language produced with the vocal tract, as opposed to sign language, which is produced with the hands and face. Vocal language is often called spoken language, especially by linguists. (Among non-linguists, sign language is also sometimes said to be spoken.[2][3][4])

Both vocal and sign languages are composed of words. In vocal languages, words are made up from a limited set of vowels and consonants, and often tone; in sign languages, words are made up from a limited set of shapes, orientations, locations, and movements of the hands, and often facial expressions; in both cases, these building blocks are called phonemes. In both vocal and sign languages, words are grammatically and prosodically linked into phrases, clauses, and larger units of discourse.

Hearing children acquire as their first language whichever language is used around them, whether vocal or (if they are sighted) sign. Deaf children will do the same with sign language, if one is used around them; vocal language must be consciously taught to them, in the same way as written language must be taught to hearing children. (See oralism.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a term also used for spoken (as opposed to written) language
  2. ^ Nora Groce (1985) Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language: Hereditary Deafness on Martha's Vineyard
  3. ^ Harry Hoemann (1986) Introduction to American sign language
  4. ^ Brooks & Kempe (2012) Language Development