Articulation (linguistics)

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With articulation ( Latin articular clearly express' ) is called in linguistic and phonetic sense, the realization of phonemes and words of human languages by the articulation organs , so the neuro-muscular process of speaking (in the spoken languages ) or the Gebärdens (with hands , for sign languages ). In the context of speech production in spoken languages, articulation is defined in the narrower sense as the speech movements of the articulation organs, as a distinction between breathing and phonation (vocalization).


The articulation is ultimately the basis for differentiating the various speech sounds (even in their abstract description as phonemes ); articulation is therefore an important concept in linguistic phonetics . The articulation processes are based on more extensive anatomical-physiological requirements, which in linguistics only need to be considered marginally.

The basic requirement for speaking is the interaction of the organs of articulation with breathing , which provides the air flow required for speaking when breathing out ( exhalation ). Speech sounds that are generated by pressure generation in the oral cavity, independently of breathing, only rarely occur in human languages ​​(so-called non-pulmonary consonants , such as the click sounds of Khoisan speeches ). Overall, by far not all sounds that can in principle be generated with the speech organs or resonance spaces are systematically used in a given spoken language and are therefore linguistically relevant.

The basic requirement for “manual articulation in sign languages” is the ability of the arms to move and touch body parts, and the hands to form hand configurations with the fingers. In sign language linguistics, one speaks of the four parameters in the formation of signs: hand configuration, hand position, movement and movement location . Only a subset of the possible movements of the arms and hand shapes is linguistically relevant in a given sign language. Also, only a limited number of body parts are touched by the signing hand or hands.

The following sections present the phonetic side of the articulation in more detail. Some details on the articulation in sign language can be found under German Sign Language # Phonology .

The organ of articulation

The organ of articulation is the active part of the articulation that moves towards or touches the points of articulation (the place of articulation):

The place of articulation is the relatively immobile part of the attachment tube and the target of the articulator. The sounds are named accordingly:

Origin of the phonation stream

By volume of the magnification thorax by means of the chest muscles , the ribs and the diaphragm can can be the lungs expand and a vacuum is created, so that the breathing air through the airways into the lungs flow. On the other hand, by lowering the ribs and raising the diaphragm, the lungs contract again. The resulting overpressure is pressed as expiratory air flow from the lungs via the bronchi into the windpipe ( ventilation ). The windpipe is elastic and ends at the top with the larynx . Only there, in the larynx, is the decision made as to whether the expiratory flow becomes the phonation flow or not.

The phonation and articulation process

Schematic representation of the cartilage in the breathing position; A: thyroid cartilage , B: cricoid cartilage , C: actuating cartilage , D: vocal folds

As the air flows out of the lungs, it passes through the larynx and vocal folds . In a relaxed state, the vocal folds are in the breathing position, i. In other words , the glottis is wide open so that the breathing air can flow out unhindered.

To get the phonation, i.e. H. To initiate the generation of voice, the vocal folds are brought into the phonation position (voice position), that is, they lie loosely against each other and thus close the glottis. The air flow causes the vocal folds to vibrate; that is, they open and close so that the air is released into the articulation space in bursts with each opening and closing. Complex sounds are created that are composed of periodic partials . The basic frequency (approx. 70–1000 Hz are possible ) depends on the length and tension (selective muscle contractions ) of the vocal folds , which are regulated by the position of the adjusting cartilage or the tilting movement between the cricoid and thyroid cartilage .

Scheme of the various positions of the cartilage and vocal cords; A : glottic closure, B : phonation position, C : whisper position, D : breath position; E : breathing position or resting position; Q : deep breathing position

Once in the vocal cords of a primary sound has been generated, it flows (made up of throat, nose and mouth) in the extension tube . The extension tube is comparable to a musical instrument in which the oscillation once generated is modified into a tone . The human attachment pipe is therefore capable of vibrating and thus acts as a so-called resonance space . The noises and sounds generated in the larynx are modulated into speech sounds in the neck tube.

Basically, when it comes to speech sounds, one has to distinguish between sound sounds and noise sounds. At isolated articulation of a "sharp" s as in Mau s example, there is a noise. It occurs when the glottis is in the breathing position (see illustration) and a tightness is formed between the edge of the tongue and the edge of the alveoli . In order to produce a sound, it is not absolutely necessary for the vocal folds to be in the phonation position (vocal position, see Figure "B" ). A voiceless consonant is created even in the breathing position . At isolated articulation of a "soft" s in S onne other hand, the glottis is in contrast phonation (see figure). This very close approach of the vocal folds creates forces that cause the air flow to vibrate periodically ( Bernoulli effect ). The result is a voiced consonant that creates a sound through the formation of a narrow area between the edge of the tongue and the edge of the alveoli: the voiced (soft) s .

A basic distinction is made in phonetics between the organ of articulation , the place of articulation (point of articulation) and finally the type of articulation .

1. exolabial 2. endolabial 3. dental 4. alveolar 5. postalveolar 6. prepalatal 7. palatal 8. velar 9. uvular 10. pharyngeal 11. glottal 12. epiglottal 13. radical 14. posterodorsal 15. anterodorsal 16. laminal 17th apical 18th sublaminal
Sound designations according to the organ and place of articulation
designation Articulating organ Articulation place example
bilabial Lower lip (labium inferius) Upper lip (labium superius) [⁠ p ⁠] [⁠ b ⁠] [⁠ m ⁠]
labiodental bottom lip upper incisors [⁠ f ⁠] [⁠ v ⁠]
dental Tongue sheet upper incisors [⁠ ⁠]
alveolar Tip of the tongue (apex linguae) Tooth dam (alveolus dentalis) [⁠ d ⁠]
postalveolar Tongue sheet hard palate (palatum durum) [⁠ ʃ ⁠] [⁠ ʒ ⁠]
retroflex Tip of tongue Hard palate [⁠ ɻ ⁠]
palatal Back of the tongue (dorsum linguae) Hard palate [⁠ ç ⁠]
velar Back of the tongue soft palate, soft palate (velum) [⁠ k ⁠] [⁠ ɡ ⁠]
uvular Back of the tongue Uvula (uvula) [⁠ ʀ ⁠]
pharyngal Tongue root (radix linguae) Throat wall (pharynx) [⁠ ħ ⁠]
glottal Vocal folds Glottis (glottis) [⁠ h ⁠]

The articulation type is ultimately the way in which the contact between the articulator and the articulation point is represented and how the air flow is directed to the outside. For example, the organs of articulation can form a constriction, which can lead to different levels of noise, as in [v] in "wine" or more in [f] in "fine". The air flow can also be blocked for a short time (obstruction) at [b] as in "leg". However, the phonation air can also flow through the extension pipe without having to overcome an obstacle, as is the case with vowels and half-vowels, a subgroup of approximants . With nasal consonants, an obstruction in the oral cavity remains all the time, while the velum positions itself in such a way that it allows the air flow to pass through the nasal cavity. (See the graphic on the right: The velum is the soft structure that extends from position “8” to “9”. The “uvular” closure location (No. 9) is therefore the most posterior closure for which there is a nasal sound can give, ie before the air flow can be diverted through the nose).

Vowels, half vowels and voiced consonants are sounds that we perceive as speech sounds . The three only overcoming modes are the release of an obstruction, constriction or unhindered outflow of the breathing air.

If a sound is produced at different places of articulation at the same time, one speaks of complex or compound articulation . A distinction is made between these:

  • the relatively rare double articulation with two or more places of articulation, but the same type of articulation, and
  • the more frequently occurring secondary articulation, i.e. a type of articulation that deviates from the main articulation type.

The following can occur as secondary articulation:

Representation and description of speech sounds

Sounds can be described by specifying the articulating organs and the way in which the airflow is influenced. With the help of a phonetic transcription like the International Phonetic Alphabet one can represent the sounds of the human languages ​​of the world.


  • John Cunnison Catford : Fundamental Problems in Phonetics. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 1977, ISBN 0-85224-437-1 .
  • John Cunnison Catford: The articulatory possibilities of man. In: B. Malmberg (Ed.): Manual of Phonetics. North-Holland, Amsterdam 1968, ISBN 0-7204-6029-8 , pp. 309-333.
  • William J. Hardcastle: Physiology of Speech Production. An introduction for speech scientists. Academic Press, London et al. 1976, ISBN 0-12-324950-3 .
  • Bernd Pompino-Marschall: Introduction to Phonetics. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1995, ISBN 3-11-014763-7 , ( De Gruyter study book ).
  • Hans-Heinrich Wängler: Physiological Phonetics. An introduction. Elwert, Marburg 1972, ISBN 3-7708-0435-X .


Web links

Wiktionary: Articulation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Pompino-Marschall, 1995, p. 17.