Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Researches in experimental phonetics
Scripture, Edward Wheeler
An excellent way to determine the composition of anything is to 
build it up out of elements with known characters. Applied to speech 
curves the method of synthesis would have to compose curves that resem¬ 
ble vowel curves. 
The synthesis of simple sinusoids in harmonic relations (Preece and 
Stroh, Michelson and Stratton) can be made to furnish curves that resem¬ 
ble those from some musical instruments, but it can not furnish curves 
that resemble vowel curves unless an inordinately great number of elements 
is used. To have amr meaning for vowel analysis, however, the number 
of elements must be small. Since vowel curves can not be counterfeited 
by adding any reasonable number of harmonic simple sinusoids, we must 
conclude that the vowels themselves were not produced by vibrating bodies 
whose periods form a harmonic series. In other words, the overtone 
theory of the vowels (p. 107) is not valid because curves produced by a small 
number of elements adjusted according to that theory do not resemble 
vowel curves. 
The entirely different assumption that a vowel is the effect of sharp 
glottal puffs acting on the vocal cavities was used as the basis for the 
construction of a vibration apparatus. The apparatus was made to 
record the effects of sudden magnetic impulses on a steel spring; this was 
to represent the sharp glottal puffs acting upon the lowest vibratory ele¬ 
ment of the vocal cavity. An early form of this apparatus was described 
in “Elements of Experimental Phonetics” (Chapter I); the improved 
form is shown in figure 116. 
A steel “vibrating spring” of any desired stiffness is held with any 
desired length in a “clamp”; it is free and carries a writing point 
which records its vibrations on a smoked surface. An “electromagnet” 
is placed so that a current sent through it will pull the spring down; the 
“magnet holder” permits adjustment at any point along the length of 
the spring and at any distance from it; an extra steel cap on the core 
makes it possible to allow for the bend of the spring. The “felt damper” 
is cemented to a strip of steel fixed in a “damper holder” that permits 
adjustment of the felt to any place on the spring ; the “damper regulator” 
is a screw which bends the steel strip in the middle and presses the felt 
against the spring with any desired force. m


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