When explaining articulatory placement to students, a profile drawing like this one I drew was a common visual aid in therapy. After several years of practice and a background of a few middle school art lessons in drawing the human profile, this is the closest many of us can get to a visual representation of the oral articulators.
These primitive cave drawings of mine have communicated the overall idea of the speech mechanism (ignoring some giggles from the first grade art critics), but there’s an even better resource available! Multiple departments at The University of Iowa, including Communication Sciences and Disorders, Spanish and Portuguese, German, and Information Technology Services, have collaborated to develop a Sounds of Speech app (available for both Apple and Android). This app organizes all phonemes according to their classification of place, manner, and voicing and provides:
- Definitions of each class (e.g., fricatives, affricates, lingua-dental sounds)
- Animations of the articulators producing that sound (profile view)
- Annotations to describe the physical action that occurs, such as what is occurring at each point of articulation (lips, tongue, velopharyngeal port, vocal folds)
- A front-view video of production on human lips
- Audio examples of the phoneme in initial, medial, and final positions
- Descriptions and videos of vowels (monothongs and diphthongs)
- Features available for English, Spanish, and German
Sounds of Speech – Articulatory Placement Demonstration
Get the app:
These same features are also available on their interactive website, so take a look around! This resource has been a great tool for teaching articulatory placement. After a quick overview of the articulators in the diagrams, students love imitating productions following the video.
Websites to download IPA font to your computer: