Aeroacoustic production of low-frequency unvoiced speech sounds

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A theoretical approach to describing unvoiced speech sound production is outlined using the essentials of aerodynamics and aeroacoustics. The focus is on the character and role of nonacoustic air motion in the vocal tract. An idealized picture of speech sound production is presented showing that speech sound production involves the dynamics of a jet flow, characterized by vorticity. A formal expression is developed for the sound production by unsteady airflow in terms of jet vorticity and vocal-tract shape, and a scaling law for the aeroacoustic source power is derived. The generic features of internal jet flows such as those exhibited in speech sound production are discussed, particularly in terms of the vorticity field, and the relevant scales of motion are identified. An approximate description of a jet as a train of vortex rings, useful for sound-field prediction, is described using the scales both of motion and of vocal-tract geometry. It is shown that the aeroacoustic source may be expressed as the convolution of (1) the acoustic source time series due to a single vortex ring with (2) a function describing the arrival of vortex rings in the source region. It is shown that, in general, the characteristics of the aeroacoustic source are determined not only by the strength, spatial distribution, and convection speed of the jet vorticity field, but also the shape of the vocal tract through which the jet flow passes. For turbulent jets, such as those which occur in unvoiced sound production, however, vocal-tract shape is the dominant factor in determining the spectral content of the source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)410-427
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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