What happens inside you when you speak: MRI

On the internet there are quite a lot of speech videos made with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). But I often find that students and teachers of English pronunciation have never seen one, or looked at one carefully. So today I’m posting this short video introduction to the inner workings of speech:

Since the topic is so visual, I’ll leave the video to talk for itself. I hope it provides an entertaining reality check on the miraculous complexity, rapidity and fluidity of actual speech. Although the sound quality of the MRI video is a bit weird – the noise of the scanner has to be filtered out – there’s nothing weird about the speech. Everything you see here happens inside you whenever you speak.

14 replies
  1. Imran Soudagar
    Imran Soudagar says:

    Wow! It is amazing to see how we produce sound and yet we do not give much thought about it. Your explanation and the MRI video is an excellent example of how technology can be used to understand the human body and how we can improve ourselves.

    Thank you so much for posting this.

  2. Maria Virginia Perez
    Maria Virginia Perez says:

    I’ve been teaching English Phonetics in Buenos Aires for 30 years and this is the first video I’ve found that has been so clear to the students.

  3. Marzena Jerczyńska
    Marzena Jerczyńska says:

    Dear Geoff
    I absolutely love the video!
    It will be a great help to me and my students.
    My boss is planning to install a language lab at school. I’ll be in charge of it and I’m so excited to use it in lessons.
    We will definitely benefit from your videos. Thank you.

    Kind regards,
    Marzena Jerczyńska
    I was lucky enough to participate in SCEP in 2012 and later (December that same year) in your workshop in London. The experience gave me loads of inspiration and I have wonderful memories of that time. I was planning to come to London for the workshop in April…now I’m stuck at home with remote learning. This is our last week of the school year in Poland and we all hope for a better one beginning in September.

    • Geoff Lindsey
      Geoff Lindsey says:

      Hello Marzena – nice to hear from you and I hope the videos help your students. SCEP of course has been cancelled this year. I hope you’re well and that things improve for all of us.

  4. Harry
    Harry says:

    Following your website with great interest!
    I have a question. Will there ever be an article about the KIT vowel difference between AmE and BrE? I notice more and more how words starting with L like lip, lid, lisp etc are closer to ɪ in BrE whereas in AmE it sounds like ɨ (often quite a clearly).
    Is it me hearing things that are not there or is it a real difference?

    • Geoff Lindsey
      Geoff Lindsey says:

      Hello, and I’m glad the site is of interest. Yes, KIT is often more central in AmE than BrE, and it’s not at all surprising if the difference is particularly marked after L, which is darker in AmE. The short-long distinction is less pronounced in AmE than BrE, which would make it useful to have a bigger quality difference between FLEECE and KIT.

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