Perhaps we have been influenced by burlesque caricatures of the grand opera singers or elocution teachers of a bygone era. Or it may be that as adults we remember those admonitions of grade school teachers to "open your mouth, please, when you talk!" For whatever reason, a few people who speak to the hearing impaired seem to think there is some virtue in opening the mouth very wide with exaggerated vertical jaw movements. For want of a better term we call this "yapping."
A certain amount of jaw movement is desirable during speech, but this movement is not all up-and-down. The jaw slides easily forward in a ruminating movement similar to a cow chewing her cud -- but not nearly so pronounced. The teeth do separate slightly to accommodate the low vowels /a/ as in "cat," /ah/ as in "cart," and /aw/ as in "caught." Teeth are closest to occlusion (biting position) for the consonants /s/ and /z/. But, for the most part, efficient articulation action is delegated to the lips, tongue, and velum (soft palate) and not to the jaw.
Excessive vertical jaw motion actually impedes clear articulation of consonants at normal conversational speeds. These gross jaw movements also make speechreading more difficult for the hearing impaired, so there is little to be gained and much to be lost by the continuation of this habit. Such dubious skills should be relegated to the Muppets and ventriloquist dummies!
Some of the "yapping"may be triggered during the early stages of learning Cued Speech inadvertently. When cueing very slowly we also articulate very slowly in order to synchronize speech sounds with cues. Very slow articulation leads to exaggerated articulation if we are not careful. Opening one's mouth extra wide is also something to do while searching one's memory for the right cue. Usually the exaggerated articulation movements go back to normal movements as cueing skills improve -- but not always.
One way to check to see if you are a jaw "yapper" while cueing is to say the following sentence using your normal conversational speech. Don't cue the sentence while watching yourself in a mirror.
"I think I'll offer John a ride in my new car."
Now cue-and-say the same sentence while watching closely. Notice any difference in the movement of your lower jaw?"
If you noticed some "yapping," tray the mirror check again with this next sentence. Actually it is loaded so that vertical jaw movement will be minimal. Try it first without cues; then try it with cues:
"Do you think you could be reasonable?"
Another way to monitor vertical jaw "yapping" without looking in a mirror is to hold your thumb under your chin while saying sentences. Your thumb will inform you very dramatically if you are "yapping" by digging into your chin. The trouble with this strategy is that you can't cue at the same time!
The most conservative strategy will probably work best for you in the long run. Below are a series of sentences to cue. As you cue-and-say the first four, note the nice, easy ruminating motion of your jaw. You can feel it. Your lips and tongue tip do most of the work.
The next four sentences will require you to open your jaw slightly, but concentrate on making your lips and tongue do most of the articulating.
- "The moon moves easily in the stream."
- "Jeanne dreams of being a beauty queen."
- "We should get ready to see TV soon."
- "Please tell me if you need me."
These last four are loaded with "booby traps," but you can avoid "yapping" if you'll let your lips and tongue do the work with your jaw sliding easily forward rather than dropping toward your chest.
- "It's very easy to cope with this."
- "Keeping it ruminating is not hard at all."
- "Everyone in the world should fly."
- "You can do it if you try."
- "Why don't you try my glider?"
- "That's not my style, pal."
- "Yapping is a very bad habit."
- "Sally took a nice ride around the park."