Morphological variation in the adult hard palate and posterior pharyngeal wall

Adam Lammert*, Michael Proctor, Shrikanth Narayanan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Adult human vocal tracts display considerable morphological variation across individuals, but the nature and extent of this variation has not been extensively studied for many vocal tract structures. There exists a need to analyze morphological variation and, even more basically, to develop a methodology for morphological analysis of the vocal tract. Such analysis will facilitate fundamental characterization of the speech production system, with broad implications from modeling to explaining interspeaker variability. Method: A data-driven methodology to automatically analyze the extent and variety of morphological variation is proposed and applied to a diverse subject pool of 36 adults. Analysis is focused on two key aspects of vocal tract structure: the midsagittal shape of the hard palate and the posterior pharyngeal wall. Result: Palatal morphology varies widely in its degree of concavity but also in anteriority and sharpness. Pharyngeal wall morphology, by contrast, varies mostly in terms of concavity alone. The distribution of morphological characteristics is complex, and analysis suggests that certain variations may be categorical in nature. Conclusion: Major modes of morphological variation are identified, including their relative magnitude, distribution, and categorical nature. Implications of these findings for speech articulation strategies and speech acoustics are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-530
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes

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