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Whispering (Latin: vox parva) is an unvoiced mode of phonation in which the vocal cords do not vibrate normally but are instead adducted sufficiently to create audible turbulence (a 'hissing' quality) as the speaker exhales (or occasionally inhales) during speech. This is a somewhat greater adduction than that found in breathy voice. Articulation remains the same as in normal speech.
In normal speech, the vocal cords alternate between states of voice and voicelessness. In whispering, only the voicing changes, so that the vocal cords alternate between whisper and voicelessness (though the acoustic difference between the two states is minimal). Because of this circumstance, there is currently no known possibility to use speech recognition successfully on a whispering person, as the characteristic spectral range needed to detect syllables and words is not given through the total absence of tone.
There also is no symbol in the IPA for whispered phonation, since it is not used phonemically in any language. However, a sub-dot under phonemically voiced segments is sometimes seen in the literature, as [ʃʊ̣ḍ] for whispered should.
Social role of whispering
Whispering is generally used quietly, to limit the hearing of speech to listeners who are nearby; for example, to convey secret information without being overheard or to avoid disturbing others in a quiet place such as a library or place of worship. Loud whispering, known as a stage whisper, is generally used only for dramatic or emphatic purposes. Whispering also takes less effort to vocalize than a normal speech pattern. This is because less air needs to be used to vocalize the sound. However, while it takes less effort to produce a whisper, it tires out the vocal cords more quickly.
Whispering in animals
A number of species of animals have been observed to whisper, particularly cotton-top tamarins, the barbastelle bat, and the female of the fish species, croaking gouramis. The reasons for animal whispering vary, and are not fully understood, but whispering among the tamarins appears to serve a social purpose, while the species of bats appears to whisper in order to evade detection by its particular prey, eared moths.
- Aspiration (phonetics)
- Chinese whispers
- Cocktail party effect
- Creaky voice
- Egressive sound vs. ingressive speech
- Whispering campaign
- Whispering gallery
- Other forms of unvoiced vocalization: gasping, sighing and panting
- Principles of Phonetics. John Laver, 1994, Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics.
- Language History: An Introduction. Andrew L. Sihler, 1999, John Benjamins.
- "Speech Recognition: Why doesn't speech recognition work with whispered speech?". Quora. Retrieved 2013-07-16.
- Simone M. Scully, "[Monkeys Can Whisper http://mag.audubon.org/articles/blog/monkeys-can-whisper]" Audubon (October 2, 2013).
- Christine Dell'Amore, ""Whispering" Bat Evolved to Trick Prey", National Geographic Magazine (September 1, 2010).
- "Study: Female Fish Whisper to Initiate Sex; 'Purring Sounds in a Vertical, Head-up Position'", Underwatertimes.com (January 29, 2007).
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- Sound patterns in Human Language: phonation
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