Laryngeal constriction phenomena in infant vocalizations

Michael P. Robb, Faraz Yavarzadeh, Philip J. Schluter, Verena Voit, Wafaa Shehata-Dieler, Kathleen Wermke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: Instances of laryngeal constriction have been noted as a feature of infant vocal development. The purpose of this study was to directly evaluate the developmental occurrence of laryngeal constriction phenomena in infant crying, cooing, and babbling vocalizations. Method: The cry and noncry vocalizations of 20 healthy term-born infants between the ages of 1 and 7 months were examined for instances of laryngealconstriction.Approximately 20,000 vocalization samples were acoustically evaluated, applying a combined visual (frequency spectra and melody curves) and auditory analysis; the occurrence of instances of different constriction phenomena was analyzed. Results: Laryngeal constrictions were found during the production of cry and noncry vocalizations. The developmental pattern of constrictions for both vocalizations was characterized by an increase in constrictions followed by a decrease. During the age period of 3–5 months, when cry and noncry vocalizations were co-occurring, laryngeal constrictions were observed in 14%–22% of both types of vocalizations. An equal percentage of constrictions was found for both vocalizations at 5 months of age. Conclusions: The findings confirm that the production of laryngeal constriction is a regularly occurring phenomenon in healthy, normally developing infants’ spontaneous crying, cooing, and marginal babbling. The occurrence of constriction in both cry and noncry vocalizations suggests that an infant is exploiting physiological constraints of the sound-generating system for articulatory development during vocal exploration. These results lend support to the notion that the laryngeal articulator is the principal articulator that infants 1st start to control as they test and practice their phonetic production skills from birth through the 1st several months of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-58
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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