Voice Quality Symbols

Voice Quality Symbols (VoQS) are a set of phonetic symbols used for voice quality, such as to transcribe disordered speech.

VoQS symbols are normally combined with curly braces that span a section of speech, just as with prosody notation in the extended IPA. The symbols may be modified with a digit to convey relative degree of the quality. For example, ⟨V!⟩ is used for harsh voice, and {3V! ... 3V!} indicates that the intervening speech is very harsh. ⟨⟩ indicates a lowered larynx. Thus, {L̞1V! ... 1V!L̞} indicates that the intervening speech is less harsh with a lowered larynx.

VoQS use mostly IPA or extended IPA diacritics on capital letters for the element being modified: V for 'voice', L for 'larynx', and J for 'jaw'. Degree is marked 1 for slight, 2 for moderate, and 3 for extreme.


The following combinations of letters and diacritics are used.[1] They indicate an airstream mechanism, phonation or secondary articulation across a stretch of speech. For example, 'palatalized voice' indicates palatalization of the segment of speech spanned by the braces.

airstream mechanisms
{ↀ} buccal speech (symbol is iconic for the pockets of air in the cheeks)
} œsophageal speech (symbol derives from the letter œ of œsophagus)
} tracheo-œsophaeal speech (symbol attempts to capture iconically the dual nature of the airstream)
{↓} pulmonic ingressive speech
phonation types

The four primary phonation types, other than breathed (voiceless), receive a distinct letter:

{V} modal voice
{F} falsetto
{W} whisper (typically only the normally modal-voice segments are whispery, while the voiceless segments remain voiceless)
{C} creak

Modifications are made with diacritics. The terms "whispery voice/murmur" and "breathy voice" follow Catford (1977) and differ from the use of "murmur/breathy voice" by the IPA. The notation {Ṿ} and {V̤} are therefore often confused, and {V̤} should perhaps be used for whispery voice with e.g. {Vʱ} for breathy voice.[2]

{Ṿ} whispery voice (murmur; the breathy voice of the IPA)
{V̰} creaky voice
{V̤} breathy voice
{C̣} whispery creak
{V͉} slack/lax voice
{V!} harsh voice (without ventricular vibration; this may differ from the use of the word "harsh" cross-linguistically, which may be the same as "ventricular", next)
{V‼} ventricular phonation
{V̬‼} diplophonia (simultaneous ventricular and glottal vibration; see also vocal-fold cyst)
{Ṿ‼} whispery ventricular phonation
{V} aryepiglottic phonation
{V͈} pressed phonation/tight voice (made by pressing together the arytenoid cartilages so that only the anterior ligamental vocal folds vibrate; the opposite of whisper, where the vibration is posterior)
{W͈} tight whisper
{ꟿ} spasmodic dysphonia
} electrolaryngeal phonation (approximates symbol for electricity)
supra-laryngeal settings
{L̝} raised larynx
{L̞} lowered larynx
{Vꟹ} labialized voice (open rounded; that is, [◌ʷ̜])
{Vʷ} labialized voice (close rounded)
{V͍} spread-lip voice
{Vᶹ} labio-dentalized voice
{V̺} linguo-apicalized voice
{V̻} linguo-laminalized voice
{V˞} retroflex voice
{V̪} dentalized voice (diacritic iconic for a tooth)
{V͇} alveolarized voice (diacritic iconic for the alveolar ridge)
{V͇ʲ} palatoalveolarized voice
{Vʲ} palatalized voice
{Vˠ} velarized voice
{Vʶ} uvularized voice (self-evidence extension of IPA usage)
{Vˤ} pharyngealized voice
{V̙ˤ} laryngo-pharyngealized voice
{Vꟸ} faucalized voice (iconic of narrowing of faucal pillars)
{Ṽ} nasalized voice
{V͊} denasalized voice
{J̞} open-jaw voice
{J̝} close-jaw voice
{J͔} right-offset-jaw voice
{J͕} left-offset-jaw voice
{J̟} protruded-jaw voice
} protruded-tongue voice (protrusion of the tip or blade of the tongue for extended periods)

Other combinations are possible, such as {Ṿ̃} for nasal whispery voice[3] or {WF̰} for whispery creaky falsetto.[2] If the number of diacritics on a letter becomes excessive, the notation may be broken up. For example, {Ṿ̰̃ˠ} may be replaced with {VˠṼṾV̰}.

See also[]


  1. ^ Ball, Esling & Dickson (1995) "The VoQS System for the Transcription of Voice Quality", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 25.02, p. 71–80. Updated 2015.
  2. ^ a b Ball, Esling & Dickson (2000: 54)
  3. ^ Laver (1994) Principles of Phonetics, p. 421.