Wednesday, 3 February 2010

glottal opera

An interesting YouTube video has been going the rounds recently, marrying a choral performance of a song with laryngoscopic shots of the singers’ glottises.
See each glottis opening, closing, and vibrating! Admire those arytenoids! Marvel how the epiglottis swings back and forth, sometimes obscuring the view of the vocal folds!
Once upon a time (such as when I was a postgraduate) there were only rare and specialized occasions to view a laryngosocopic film clip and view the vocal folds directly. Now here it is for everyone to enjoy (if that is the word).
I think we have to take it on trust that the film clips are properly synchronized with the sound.
I don’t know anything about “the all-girl vocal group Kaya” — does anyone? I have to say, though, that when they sing lips it sounds remarkably like leaps liːps. It must be because they’re Australian, with raised KIT (and diphthongal FLEECE).
Thanks, anyhow, Australian colleagues.


  1. The Glottal Opera first came to my attention on Facebook, via SLP/dialect coach Kate DeVore, if I recall correctly. I did a swift tour of Google and came up with this:

    For the Wikipedia article, you'll need to scroll down a bit, or use the find feature for Kaya. We don't have The X Factor in the US, at least not yet, although we have "reality" contest shows for pretty much everything else.

    I think your point about why they are raising the KIT vowel in "lips" is probably right, but for what it's worth, sustaining a "short" vowel such as ɪ does not come as naturally to a native speaker of AmE as sustaining a "long" vowel such as iː, and a singer here might very well raise the ɪ at least a little bit. Opera singers (with exceptions, of course) tend to raise it right up to iː even when singing other music forms, which renders their English largely unintelligible.

  2. They're Australian. John's right. I thought the video was utterly disgusting, but to each his own.

    About the KIT raising. I also often hear that from English people.

  3. Anonymous: You "thought" the video to be disgusting? You no longer do so? Good, very good! There's nothing disgusting about the larnyx nor about any other body part.

  4. Oh I'm sure Anon only meant yukky. Some of us are allowed to be a bit squeamish, surely. Whether because of or in spite of the labia majora and labia minora thing!

  5. No, I'm not a pervert. It has nothing to do with that. It's just very disgusting. My linguistics teacher even thought so when we looked at something similar. Surely it doesn't mean I'm an inferior person or anything like that. Maybe you guys think so.

  6. I wonder whether the tendency to raise KIT when singing might have something to do with the singer's formant. John, you sing - what do you think?

  7. Anonymous: I was not assuming you were or are a pervert. I simply don't share your disgust at the sight of a body part and I was and still am wondering what causes this impression of yours.

  8. It is simply amazing. It makes me think again for dinosourses. Quite entertaining!

  9. yeh, gday there viewers, I the bloke that made this short film, and what I really wanna know is, who is this Kit sheila, is she an aussie, and is she good looking?