Learning aims:
  • Understanding the model of the human speech production
  • Understanding of physics concepts (sound spectrum resonance, formants)
  • Text about model of human speech production is given in the worksheet
  • Other internet resources concerning modelling human speech
Suggestions for use:

In this activity students focus on a model of the human vocal system and physics concepts related to this model.

Hand out Worksheet: Model of human speech production and let students read the text. Then discuss with them the given bio-physics model and mechanism of speech production.

Show them the animation of vocal folds at:


Show them X-ray sample movies of human speech:


Extend the discussion by asking the questions given below..

Possible questions:
  • Does temperature influence the pitch of your voice or the pitch of your musical instrument, respectively? In what way? Can you explain the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon?
  • Donald Duck is known for his high-pitched speech. Breathing helium will give you temporarily a similar voice. Could you explain this? What property of the intermediating gas is responsible?
  • What are the voice differences between man/female, loud/soft, sung/spoken?
  • How could we recognize a vowel from its formants?