Breland, Mary Beth MBreland at HLG.EDU
Mon Feb 28 23:56:15 UTC 2000

I asked an acquaintance who is a ventriloquist about the production of
labials by ventriloquists.  Her answer, copied below, corroborates Mike
Salovesh's post of Feb. 20
Mary Beth Breland

The answer in my opinion is that in one sense the teacher's statement is
correct.  No one can really  make those liable sounds.
We use a series of sound substitutes.  They are listed as follows:

B = D
M = N
P = T

With lots of practice and terrific air control, a ventriloquist learns to
soften the substituted sound against back of his teeth.

A sentence such as, 'A boy bounces a basketball.', would be said
ventriloquilly , 'A doy dounces a dasketdall.'  Yet due to the lack of
facial muscled movement, the air control, the softening of the attack on the
liabels, and the fact that it is used in conversation, a listener believes
that is what is being said.(Also partly because the listener really wants to
believe the dummy is "talking")


> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date:    Mon, 21 Feb 2000 00:09:18 -0600
> From:    Mike Salovesh <t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU>
> Subject: Re: Ventriloquists and labial sounds
> Gerald Cohen wrote:
> >
> >      Yesterday I confidently told one of my classes that it is
> impossible
> > to make the sounds m, p, or b without using the lips.  And I invited the
> > students to test this out at leisure when they're alone somewhere.
> >
> >     One of my students then raised his hand and asked how ventriloquists
> > can make a labial sound.   Hmmm.  Can someone help me out with an answer
> to
> > this?
> Answer: they don't.  They substitute other sounds that are misperceived
> by their audiences. A large part of the successful ventriloquist's
> training comes in learning how to manipulate secondary features of
> labials so as to give the impression that they have actually pronounced
> a labial without moving their lips.
> I don't have the citations at hand, but my statement is based on books I
> acquired in boyhood attempts to learn both ventriloquism and stage
> magic.  For what it's worth, I confirmed the existence of the technique
> by carefully observing actual ventriloquists at work.  (Your students
> could do that, too, if your audio-visual library happens to have any
> footage of ventriloquists . . . )
> One trick that was widely suggested in how-to-do-it ventriloquism
> manuals was to move part of the inside of the lower lip to bring it
> between the upper and lower teeth, then to bite lightly to keep it
> there. That was supposed to make it easier to control a tendency to move
> the lips.  Look at ventriloquists at work and you can usually detect
> this trick in operation each time they switch from normal voice to
> dummy's voice.
> Those manuals usually had a substitution table, suggesting /n/ for /m/,
> /d/ for /b/, /t/ for /p/.  I remember one manual that gave page after
> page of things to read out loud, making those substitutions in otherwise
> normal speech.   The readings were intended as practice drill that would
> make substitution automatic.
> The novice ventriloquist was then advised to adopt a special voice set,
> much tenser and at a higher pitch than "normal" speech, as the voice of
> the ventriloquist's dummy.  This "strange" voice was a form of
> misdirection: the audience was supposed to focus so much on the
> strangeness that little things like the substitution of /d/ for /b/
> would fade unnoticed into the background.
> Advanced manuals recommended learning full routines to use verbatim.
> One of the big pitfalls they tried to teach novices to avoid was any
> string that repeated a lot of labials.  The idea was to avoid trying to
> say "Teter Titer Ticked a Teck of Tickled Tetters."
> -- mike salovesh                    <salovesh at>
> PEACE !!!
> ------------------------------
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