The Story of Sounds: Episode 9. Further discoveries using the Voice Button

As you know I prefer, where possible, to give a mimed or visual model of a sound rather than say the sound, as it makes learners look attentively at the muscular movement and to search for that same muscle movement in themselves. It focuses on the physicality of the sound, the dance. After the mime I will ask them to say aloud the sound they have found, listening carefully to each other and noticing the differences between their various renderings. Usually there is one that is close enough for me to indicate as a temporary model for the others. If not I may give a spoken model, once only, using the Inner Workbench, which simply requires learners to listen to my model in their minds ear (the inner ear) several times over, even though I only say it once myself. Then I ask them to say it aloud. Later this year I will write a post about the Inner Workbench.

In Episode 8 I described how to find the Voice Button, using the consonants /s/ and /z/ that are easily mimed and so are a good starting point from which to discover voluntary voicing and unvoicing. Then, having assigned a gesture for voicing as described in Episode 8 it is an easy matter for learners to discover the other voiced and unvoiced pairs.

As you know the voiced and unvoiced consonant pairs are arranged in the top two of the three consonant rows on the chart. In the first row are the eight stop sounds (plosives) from front of the mouth (left) to back of the mouth (right), arranged in four unvoiced/voiced pairs

Bilabials:/p/ /b/; Alveola:/t/ /d/; Palatal: /ʧ/ / ʤ/; Velar:/k/ /g/. The four pairs indicate four positions in the mouth, from which eight sounds can be made using both voiced and unvoiced.

And in the second row the eight fricative sounds from front of the mouth (left) to back of the mouth (right), arranged in four unvoiced/voiced pairs Labio dental: /f/ /v/; Dental: /θ/ /ð/; Alveolar: /s/ /z/; Palato alveolar: /ʃ/ / Ʒ/. Again the four pairs indicate four positions in the mouth, from which eight sounds can be made using both voiced and unvoiced.

Now, let’s pick up the story at the end of Episode 8: You remember we have used /s/ and /z/ to discover the Voice Button, and at the same time students have suddenly understood how and why /s/ is different from /z/. We then swiftly use the same discovery to gain insight into the other consonant pairs. The one I usually do next goes like this:

  1. I make sure students shift from /s/ to /z/ immediately when I silently make the voice switch gesture.
  2. I put my finger silently to my lips and mime the sound ssshhh and invite students to make it too which they do, and I point to /ʃ/ on the chart.
  3. While they extend this sound I indicate the voice switch and most of them say /Ʒ/, some following the others.  I indicate that symbol on the chart.

The importance of this process is that students are consciously and intentionally moving their sound muscles and discovering how sounds work and where and how to make them. This is quite different from a method of repetition which, as I see it, requires little processing, leaves little insight, and is low in experiential memory hooks.

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5 Responses to The Story of Sounds: Episode 9. Further discoveries using the Voice Button

  1. Lula says:

    Where can I find episodes 1 to 7?
    Thanks.

  2. Just go to the home page, and keep scrolling down, and you’ll find all my posts, including all the episodes of The Story of Sounds in reverse chronological order. You may have to pause while the screen loads. Hope you find it!

    I intend shortly to reorganise the site so people can see and access what’s there more easily than at present.
    Adrian

  3. They don’t demand a response so your ex can respond if they want, but they won’t feel
    pressured to do so.

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