How can we speak?


I speak every day – to my family and friends, to the people I work with and to other people that I meet. Sometimes I use my voice to sing or hum or whisper or shout! My daughters and husband use their voices too; even Fishfingers the cat purrs and meows. As you might imagine, our house can become rather noisy!

Speaking is one of the ways that humans communicate with each other. But how do we do it? What happens inside our bodies to make sounds that other people can understand?

As I explained in answer to What’s that noise?, sound is made by the vibration of molecules. Inside our bodies, we have special parts that can vibrate and make sounds that we can use for communication. We call these sounds our voice.

The voice box (larynx) inside your throat has soft folds called vocal cords that can vibrate very fast. When air passes over the vocal cords and makes them vibrate, they produce a buzzing noise. By changing the shape of your throat and mouth, you can change the sound so that you can make different noises for speaking or singing or just making silly noises!

You make air pass over your vocal cords each time you breathe: When you breathe in, a large muscle called the diaphragm (pronounced dyer-fram) pulls air into your body through your nose or mouth and it travels down the ‘windpipe‘ inside your neck into your lungs. When your breathe out, the diaphragm pushes air back out the same way it came in.

Speaking is only one way that humans communicate with each other. We also use facial expressions, body movements and emotional responses (like crying) to give each other information.

And animals communicate with each other too (even though they don’t speak). They have lots of different ways to do this, like making noises, making smells and touching each other.

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