How do humans and animals make such a range of sounds?

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Slyvia Hewitt

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Slyvia Hewitt asked the Naked Scientists:
Hi Chris, great show, I am a BIG fan of Kitchen Science and of your British vocabulary and grammar-- am learning a lot about Biros that write, lemonade that has bubbles, gardens without flowers, lorries that carry things, and of course lifts that lift-- as well as how a company or group ARE doing whatever it ARE doing.  Very interesting and challenging for American ears.  Sometimes I have to guess what you are talking about and then go and find my Irish friend for verification!

I know that a sound's pitch and volume translate into its acoustic waveform's wavelength and amplitude.  I also know, from experimenting with microphones and an oscilloscope app, that the different sounds we can make (for example, aaaahhh vs, oooohhh) translate to different shapes of those waveforms-- which explains why it is harder to distinguish a soprano's lyrics than those sung by lower voices, and also why as we age, one of the first deteriorations of our hearing is the reduction in our ability to distinguish sounds clearly.  What I would like to hear about it how we manage to make those different sounds happen-- how do the various positionings of our lips and tongues produce these different waveforms?  Does the sound that comes out of our mouth have to be a wave that is resonant inside the mouth?  And, most mysterious of all to me: how do other species, like birds, manage to produce a similar variety of sounds, so that for example it sounds like our Twohey is singing "drink your TEA!" when birds have no lips and very stiff mouth parts and tongues?  Do they change their cavities using something in their throats instead?

Thanks to anybody who can shed some light on any aspect of this topic.

Cheers and regards


What do you think?
« Last Edit: 20/05/2010 21:30:04 by _system »


Offline tangoblue

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How do humans and animals make such a range of sounds?
« Reply #1 on: 21/05/2010 21:30:56 »
I guess there is a big range of sounds because each differant species evolved differently, and i suppose that if everything made the same noises it would end bad.  For example if a tigers pray could understand what the tiger was saying then the pray would know how to dodge the tiger i guess.