Sounds of the Human Vocal Tract

Reed Blaylock, Nimisha Patil, Timothy Greer, Shrikanth S. Narayanan


Previous research suggests that beatboxers only use sounds that exist in the world’s languages. This paper provides evidence to the contrary, showing that beatboxers use non-linguistic articulations and airstream mechanisms to produce many sound effects that have not been attested in any language. An analysis of real-time magnetic resonance videos of beatboxing reveals that beatboxers produce non-linguistic articulations such as ingressive retroflex trills and ingressive lateral bilabial trills. In addition, beatboxers can use both lingual egressive and pulmonic ingressive airstreams, neither of which have been reported in any language.

The results of this study affect our understanding of the limits of the human vocal tract, and address questions about the mental units that encode music and phonological grammar.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1631

Cite as: Blaylock, R., Patil, N., Greer, T., Narayanan, S.S. (2017) Sounds of the Human Vocal Tract. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 2287-2291, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1631.


@inproceedings{Blaylock2017,
  author={Reed Blaylock and Nimisha Patil and Timothy Greer and Shrikanth S. Narayanan},
  title={Sounds of the Human Vocal Tract},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={2287--2291},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1631},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1631}
}