PG-4: EF-A

Recommending clearer, more precise articulation movements must be done with considerable caution. Unless suggestions are specific they can be misleading. In clearly articulated speech there is vigorous movement of the lips and tongue tip, but not excessive vertical movement of the jaw. This observation must be a well-kept professional secret, because when lay people are asked to use clearer speech they invariably "yap" with the jaw. More about jaw "yapping" in the next section.

When lip movements provide the best visual information for the hearing impaired these movements are precise but not exaggerated. Lips are spread towards a smile for the vowels in "Beet," "bit," "bait," and "bet"; the lip opening is rather square for the vowels in "bat," "bite," and "Bart"; they become progressively rounded for the vowels in "bought," "boat," "book," and "boot"; slightly pursed for "Burt; and neutral for the vowels in "but" and "above." Lip movements are quite visible for the consonants /p/. /b/, /m/,/w/,,/wh/,/f/, /v/, /sh/, and /zh/.

The teeth play a visual role for consonant phonemes /f/,/v/, /th/(voiced), and /xh/(unvoiced "th" as in "thick"). Teeth are closest to occlusion for /s/ and /z/ and widest apart for /a/, /ah/, and /aw/. Usually the tongue tip is seen when articulating the two "th" phonemes, and the underside of the tongue tip is sometimes visible for /t/,/d/,/n/,/l/,/ch/,/j/,/y/, and possibly /r/. It is difficult to see the underside of the tongue tip for /s/ and /z/ because the teeth are so close together for these sounds. The back-of-tongue vowels and consonants /k/,/g, and /ng/ are invisible unless you hold a powerful flashlight at just the right angle and the mouth is wide open. Forget them!

The writer of this manual prefers the term "speechreading" rather than "lipreading" because people who "speechread" really do watch facial expressions, tongue, and jaw movements in addition to the lips. Speechreaders also make use of situation cues. To be a good speechreader one must also ban an expert at guessing correctly! Nevertheless, those who use Cued Speech must have healthy respect for the information which is available through speechreading. Without such oral visual information Cued Speech couldn't possibly work -- and, of course, it does! So let's leave the ventriloquists skills to those who work with dummies.

A Visual Articulation Test

The informal test which follows is not intended as a general appraisal of the visual clarity of a person's speech without Cued Speech, and should not be used as such. To our knowledge no such test exists. It is a test of visual clarity for those phonemes which Cued Speech assumes should be clearly distinctive without hand cues. Cued Speech as a system relies on certain basic visual contrasts among sets of phonemes, so these contrasts are well-worth checking in your speech. It does little good to check articulation movements with isolated speech sounds: this only elicits temporary exaggeration which has no carry-over into actual speech habits.

If you have access to a video camcorder, photograph yourself saying the test sentences. Then, with the sound turned off, check the play-back carefully for possible visual confusions or ask someone else to watch the tape and monitor you. If you don't have access to a video recorder, watch yourself in a mirror or have someone watch you who can't hear very well. You might run the vacuum cleaner for masking noise.

/ee/-/ur/      1. "I lost a sheet. I lost a shirt."
/a/-/oo/-/ue/  2. "Watch your back. Watch your book
                     Watch your bike."
/aw/-/e/-/ue/  3. "That's my lawn. That's my Len. 
                     That's my loon."
/ah-/oh/-/uh/  4. "It's your cart. It's your coat.
                     It's your cut."
/aw-i/-/e-i/   5. "Joy was with us. Jay was with us."
/ah-i/-/ah-oo/ 6. "Won't you come dine with us?
                     Won't you come down with us?"
/m/-/f/-/t/    7. "You can take it. You can make it.
                     You can fake it."
/h/-/s/-/r/    8. "Will you hide with us? Will you ride
                    with us? Will you side with us?"
/p/-/d/-/zh/   9. "There's a pimple on your chin.
                    There's a dimple on your chin."
              10. "Ada is interesting. Asia is interesting."
/th/-/z/-/k/  11. "The clothing sale is Friday. The closing
     -/v/           sale is Friday.
              12. "You can't hack it. You can't have it."
/b/-/n/-/wh/  13. "He saw a whale. He saw a bale. He saw a
/l/-/w/-/sh/  14. "Lee will do it. She will do it. We will
                      do it."
/j/-/g/-/zh/  15. "Your bag is ready. Your bath is ready.
                    Your badge is ready."
/ch/-/y/-/ng/ 16. "I played yesterday." I played chess today.
              17. I'm not a ring salesman. I'm not a rich
Assuming that one doesn't have an articulation problem of some kind, what can be done to improve the visibility of speech movements?

  1. Speak as clearly and precisely as you can with good muscle tonus in your lips and tongue tip. Do not exaggerate vertical jaw movements. One way to become aware of good muscle tonus and clear articulation is to "say" the diagnostic sentences 1-17 with absolutely no voice or breath. DON'T WHISPER! Simple articulate the sentences. You'll discover that you can feel what you're doing. Focus your articulation energy forward on the lips and tongue tip. Under no circumstances should you do this exercise in the presence of a hearing impaired individual. Merely mouthing words while cueing is not recommended unless you are a interpreting for someone who is speaking to the Deaf. Mouthing words while cueing can affect the synchronization of your Cued SPeech if you aren't very careful. Auditory feedback is an important aid to your own synchronization. Mouthing sentences without voice also cheats the hearing-impaired individual out of the benefits of whatever residual hearing he/she has.
  2. Emphasize lip rounding of the back vowels such as /aw/ in "caught," /oh/ in "coat," /oo/ in "cook," and /ue/ in "cool." Failure to round the lips for these sounds is a very common sight in people with sloppy articulation.
  3. Spread your lips towards a smile for the high front vowels such as /ee/ in "feet," /i/ in "fit/, the diphthong /ay/ in "fate," and the /e/ in "bet." The lip spread becomes less pronounced as you approach the /e/.
  4. Pay special attention to the lip/tongue/jaw movements of consonants which are potentially most visible: /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/, /wh/, /f/, /v/, /sh/, /zh/, /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/.
  5. One should consider objectively the consequences of wearing anything around the mouth when the purpose is primarily cosmetic rather than corrective. No arbitrary pronouncement concerning moustaches or beards is appropriate because there are too many variables involved. Some men with expressive, mobile faces who wear carefully trimmed moustaches or beards are easy to speechread. Others who wear no hair around the face at all are difficult to speechread. But one would hope that in any personal conflict between cosmetics and communication, the needs of oral communication would be met first. By the same token, people who restrict lip movements to mask unsightly teeth should be advised to consult a good dentist. Recent advances in cosmetic dentistry might solve that particular dilemma very nicely.
  6. Those with complex problems related to visual information from speech movements should consult either a speech/language pathologist, an audiologist trained in aural rehabilitation, or a teacher of speechreading. Obviously the best professional to consult is one who knows Cued Speech, because this person will know which movements are critical and which are not. An actual case will help to explain the point being made. One parent of a deaf child was both a competent cuer and an excellent speaker. No articulaton problems of any kind were apparent when we listened to this parent. It was only when we watched this person cue-and-speak without sound that we detected a discrepancy: /r/ phonemes always looked like /w/ phonemes on the lips. Did this pose a critical oral language reception problem for the deaf child? No, because visually different hand cues for /r/ and /w/ provided the necesary distinction.Clinical intervention was unnecessary. But one wonders what the diagnosis would have been if the "problem" had been discovered by an articulatio or speechreading specialist who was unfamiliar with the dynamics of Cued Speech.

(Note: Since this manual was originally published the author has developed a "Cued Speechreading Test" which has been standardized and is available for those being evaluated for certification.

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