See Your Speech

How vowels work

How a vowel sounds is determined by the arrangement of the vocal tract (the jaw, tongue, lips and other articulators) when it is produced. Depending on the shape of the vocal tract, different frequencies are enhanced, creating areas of higher intensity called formants. To learn more about the physics of formants, check out this very informative site from the Georgia State University Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The first two formants have the biggest influence on which vowel sound we think we hear. When we plot the first two formants of a vowel sound on a special graph called a "vowel plot", they tell us how the vowel was pronounced by showing us roughly where the highest point of the tongue was when the vowel was said. (Image adapted from Wikimedia commons image by user Tavin.)

Image of vowel space trapezoid in mid-saggital drawing of vocal tract.

Your vowels

Your vowel plot shows the average pronunciation for all the words of each type in our word list. Each word on the plot represents all the words on the list containing the same vowel. The closer two words are to each other, the more similar your pronunciation of the vowels they represent.

Your vowel plot

Vowels from different places

In English, our vowels are often different depending on where we grew up. You can compare your vowel plot to some examples from different places and see who you sound the most like!