Speaking Tongues Are Actively Braced Purpose Bracing of the tongue against opposing vocal-tract surfaces such as the teeth or palate has long been discussed in the context of biomechanical, somatosensory, and aeroacoustic aspects of tongue movement. However, previous studies have tended to describe bracing only in terms of contact (rather than mechanical support), and only ... Research Article
Newly Published
Research Article  |   February 14, 2017
Speaking Tongues Are Actively Braced
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Bryan Gick
    Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • Blake Allen
    Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
  • François Roewer-Després
    Department of Computer Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • Ian Stavness
    Department of Computer Science, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication. ×
  • Correspondence to Ian Stavness: ian.stavness@usask.ca
  • Editor: Julie Liss
    Editor: Julie Liss×
  • Associate Editor: Kate Bunton
    Associate Editor: Kate Bunton×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosody / Newly Published / Research Article
Research Article   |   February 14, 2017
Speaking Tongues Are Actively Braced
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Newly Published. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-S-15-0141
History: Received April 14, 2015 , Revised November 12, 2015 , Accepted May 22, 2016
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, Newly Published. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-S-15-0141
History: Received April 14, 2015; Revised November 12, 2015; Accepted May 22, 2016

Purpose Bracing of the tongue against opposing vocal-tract surfaces such as the teeth or palate has long been discussed in the context of biomechanical, somatosensory, and aeroacoustic aspects of tongue movement. However, previous studies have tended to describe bracing only in terms of contact (rather than mechanical support), and only in limited phonetic contexts, supporting a widespread view of bracing as an occasional state, peculiar to specific sounds or sound combinations.

Method The present study tests the pervasiveness and effortfulness of tongue bracing in continuous English speech passages using electropalatography and 3-D biomechanical simulations.

Results The tongue remains in continuous contact with the upper molars during speech, with only rare exceptions. Use of the term bracing (rather than merely contact) is supported here by biomechanical simulations showing that lateral bracing is an active posture requiring dedicated muscle activation; further, loss of lateral contact for onset /l/ allophones is found to be consistently accompanied by contact of the tongue blade against the anterior palate. In the rare instances where direct evidence for contact is lacking (only in a minority of low vowel and postvocalic /l/ tokens), additional biomechanical simulations show that lateral contact is maintained against pharyngeal structures dorsal to the teeth.

Conclusion Taken together, these results indicate that tongue bracing is both pervasive and active in running speech and essential in understanding tongue movement control.

Acknowledgments
We acknowledge funding from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grants awarded to Bryan Gick and Ian Stavness. We thank S. Bird, C. Chiu, D. Erickson, S. S. Fels, A. Klenin, T. Magnuson, S. Moisik, M. Stone, D. H. Whalen, I. Wilson, and N. Yamane for their various contributions to this work.
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