Phonetic pillow

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Phonetic pillows are pillows made in the various shapes of the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). They are used in the teaching of phonetics and speech, primarily in theatre departments in higher education. Dozens of theatre programs have used Phonetic Pillows, including Boston University, North Carolina School of the Arts, Cincinnati Conservatory University of Washington Seattle, Yale School of Drama, Columbia University, University of Pretoria, South Africa, and The Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK. Phonetic pillows were invented and introduced by Louis Colaianni.[1]

In her book Freeing the Natural Voice, renowned voice coach and teacher Kristin Linklater comments on phonetic pillows as introduced in the book The Joy of Phonetics and Accents saying, ”Colaianni has developed ways of extending freedom and sensuality from voice into speech so that one need no longer divide voicing from speaking.”

Phonetic pillows are recognized as a tool for Student-centered learning. In the book Student-Centered Learning Online and On Ground, Sarah D'Angelo states, "Colaianni's method in particular revolutionized teaching and learning of the IPA with his pedagogical infusion of a post modern art form: soft sculpture. The use of large, soft, colorful, three-dimensional IPA shapes, or "pillows" as he calls them, represent each of the phonetic symbols used in spoken American English."

"Phonetic Pillows represent a move to connect the kinesthetic – fabric, texture, the simple act of throwing and receiving the pillow – with an intensified visual component ..."
--Robert Barton, "The Vocal Vision," (Applause, 1997)


Phonetic Pillows won the Sydney, Australia ArtsHub People's Choice Award, for "Innovation in the arts by an individual or group." The ArtsHub award describes Phonetic Pillows as "An innovative and interactive learning resource that assists students to physically explore speech sounds."[2]


  1. ^ Colaianni, Louis. "About Phonetic Pillows". Retrieved 27 September 2016. 
  2. ^ "Phonetic Pillows". ArtsHub. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Linklater, Kristin, “Freeing the Natural Voice.” Hollywood California: Drama Publishers. Second Edition, 2006. Page 319.
  • Crumly, Cari, Pamela Dietz and Sarah d'Angelo. "Pedagogies for Student Centered Learning Online and On Ground." Minneapolis: Fortress Press, Semenarium Elements, 2014.
  • Morgan, Michael, “Constructing The Holistic Actor: Fitzmaurice Work, Actor Voice Training.” Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag, 2008. ISBN 978-3-639-08372-9. Page 15.
  • Colaianni, Louis. “The Joy of Phonetics and Accents.” New York: Drama Book Publishers, 1994.
  • Frye, Rinda, Teaching Voice in a Multi-Cultural Classroom. Voice and Speech Trainers Association Newsletter, Winter 2000 Volume 14, Number 1.
  • American College Theatre Festival, XXXV. Session presenter: Steve Satta An introduction to a kinesthetic approach to speech and the International Phonetic Alphabet using pillows shaped like APA symbols.
  • Fifth Annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities. Session: A Creative and Fun Approach to Learning the International Phonetic Alphabet with the Use of Phonetic Pillows, presenter, Bridget Connors.
  • Voice and Speech Trainers Association Newsletter, Volume 2 Number 4, 2006 Rena Cook, Vasta Conference in Review.
  • University of Southern California, Theatre MFA Catalogue, page 9.
  • Voice and Speech Trainers Association Annual Conference, 2004, presenter, Rena Cook, Pillow Talk: inspired by the phonetic pillow work of Louis Colaianni.
  • Goldstein, David. Snapshot; 1995 February 12, Page 4 The Kansas City Star.
  • Acker, Barbara, Marian E. Hampton, editors. "The Vocal Vision: Views on Voice by 24 Leading Teachers, Coaches & Directors." New York: Applause Books, 1997. Page 90.
  • University of Pretoria Humanities Catalogue, 2003 page 150