Facts About Vocalization

Vocalizations, according to Trager, are “actual specifically identifiable noises (sounds) or aspects of noises” which do not belong to the general background characteristics of speech (1958: 5 – 6.)

Trager distinguishes three kinds of vocalizations:

  1. Vocal characterizers which consists when we ‘talk through’ (laughing, crying, snickering, giggling, whimpering, and sobbing; yelling, moaning, groaning, whining, breaking and belching);
  2. Vocal qualifiers, i.e., variations of intensity (overloud, oversoft), pitch height (overhigh, overlow), and extent (drawl, clipping), and
  3. Vocal segregates which comprises segmental sounds, such as English “uh-uh” for negation, “uh-huh” for affirmation, or the “uh” of hesitation (ibid.).

Vocal segregates are considered paralinguistic since they do not fit into the ordinary phonological frame of a language (ibid.:6), but there is a fuzzy border between these segmental sounds and lexicalized interjections.

Trager’s influence on the development of a linguistically orientated communication theory and on paralinguistic studies in particular has been unequalled. Most of the participants in the 1962 Indiana Conference admitted a specific debt to his approach, and his descriptive framework has been the most widely applied.

Hall’s influential The silent language (1959) owes a great deal to Trager’s ideas, and one of the main stimuli for the present book arose from a reading of the ‘first approximation’ (David Crystal, Prosodic Systems and Intonation in English).