Sound designer Meara O’Reilly has posted a fascinating entry on BoingBoing about how the various tones generated in the human voice tract generate recognizable speech — see “Whistling Speech.”

O’Reilly highlights the work of Haskins Laboratories, a research institute in New Haven, Conn., that does work on speech, language, reading, and their biological basis. Here’s a direct link to a great demo by Haskins showing how three different tones that don’t make sense individually can combine to make recognizable speech. Below the tone chart is a series of links allowing you to play the different tones separately and in combination.

AB — 17 March 2010

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Here’s a fascinating video, reportedly from a 1930 newsreel, in which Helen Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan shows how she taught Keller to speak out loud.

In the video, Keller places her hand in such a way that she can feel Sullivan’s larynx with her thumb, lips with her first finger, and nose with her middle finger. This allows her to understand which sounds Sullivan is making and to repeat them and put them together into syllables and words.

The video is short but amazing to watch (linked from YouTube):

AB — 20 August 2009