Velopharyngeal closure force and levator veli palatini activation levels in varying phonetic contexts

David P. Kuehn, Jerald B. Moon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study was to measure velopharyngeal closure force in varying phonetic contexts for normal men and women subjects. Levator veli palatini muscle activity was measured as well. Place and manner of articulation, voicing, and the effects of consonant sequencing were studied in different vowel contexts. When the data were grouped by sex of subject, no differences were found in absolute values of velopharyngeal closure force for the men versus women subjects. As expected, nonnasal consonants were produced with greater velopharyngeal closure force than nasal consonants. High vowels were produced with greater closure force than low vowels. Closure force was greater for voiceless than for voiced consonants but only for the men and only within /i/ and /u/ contexts. The lingua-dorsal consonant was associated with greater closure force than the lingua-apical consonant but only for the men and only in the high-back vowel environment. Significant differences in closure force were not found between fricatives or stops. A tendency for greater closure force for the fricative consonant was observed when the fricative followed rather than preceded the nasal consonant. Vowel identity had an effect on closure force during consonant production in the men in that closure force was greater for /s/ and /n/ in high versus low vowel contexts. Men exhibited a larger number of significant differences in closure force than did the women. The results suggest that velopharyngeal closure force is not controlled by a single muscle (the levator veli palatini) but that other muscles and mechanical factors are likely contributors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1998


  • Levator veli palatini muscle
  • Phonetic context
  • Velopharyngeal closure force
  • Velum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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