Re: Languages and Timbre

Subject: Re: Languages and Timbre
From: Philippe-Aubert Gauthier (
Date: Sun Nov 07 2004 - 13:48:25 EST

From a little book of 1963 ("La Chaine de Communication Verbale"), I just found
a section entitled "Sound articulation in French".

Right in the first paragraph there is the definition of the cardinal vowels
which corresponds to the extremum position of the tongue in mouth (that is the
position of the back of the tongue, the highest part of it). Max top is called
closed, max front is called former, max bottom is called opened, max back is
called later). This is usually used as a reference map (it look like a trapeze,
sometime called the "vocal trapeze") on which one can draw the various vowels
for a given language. In the book, the notion of timbre is clearly associated
with the vowels color and thus to entire mouth position (which lead us toward
the formants idea).

About various language, it use suggested that even if one may imagine every
possible combinaison (from the entire set of opened, closed, former, latter,
"bilabiales", "dentales", ...) of the lips and the tongue positions or
articulation it still difficult to deal with foreign sounds production because
each language got his own very strong association between lips/tongue position
... its like playing the drums for a first time : all about decentralized
control of movements. Once its done, you access some new timbres.

So, may I suggest that is not about different timbre but more about a different
set of timbres.


Selon Louis Dufort <>:

> \
> > I know that timbre is sort of hard to define, but I guess what I am
> > asking is: Can a person who speaks two languages perfectly(without a
> > trace of accent) actually be defined as a person who speaks with two
> > different timbres?
> Timbre is a big word, I would rather say articulation....
> Is there more at play then just the way the lips
> > and tongue form the different words from different languages?
> IMO. Yes, by imitation, greatly influence by TV. You can notice also
> imitation between groups of friends. Also I believe that our articulation
> changes thru life, not just because we are physically changing but also
> because some of us change their "imitation patterns". A good example of
> that is when quebecois goes to France and start naturally speaking with a
> French accent (scary!). Does North Americans start using the English accent
> when their in great Britain? If not, then one could also conclude that it
> can also be a culture factor. Some cultures may change more easily than
> other...?
> Do the
> > vocal chords actually change the (I think their called) formants to
> > achieve different languages?
> That's a good one. My guest is that our formants patterns are pretty stable
> (their is limits in changing the physicality of our mouth). Changing
> drastically formant pattern is the art form of an imitator. I do believe we
> change our articulation, and very superficially our timbre.
> > Blah blah blah....
> Interesting...
> Au plaisir
> Louis

% Philippe-Aubert Gauthier, B.Ing, M.Sc. %
% Étudiant au doctorat en reproduction de champs acoustiques %
% %
% GAUS (Groupe d'Acoustique et de vibrations de l'Université de %
% [ Sherbrooke) %
% CIRMMT (Centre for Interdisciplinary research in Music, Media %
% [ and Technology) %
% %
% %

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