speaking English with asymmetrical lips movement

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veracity

Senior Member
Hello,



When I see native English speakers I often notice that their face become clearly unsymmetrical when speaking. What is the reason for this? Some minutes ago I saw Johnny Cash on Youtube singing The Ring of Fire. You can easily make certain of this by having a look at him there. Some CNN anchors speak also like that, one half of their mouth and lips moving very differently then the other. Maybe they are just talking in a pretentious style?

Is it because the sounds in English can be uttered more conveniently in asymmetrical lips movement? Has asymmetry any connection to accent in English.

I don’t think that Bell’s palsy is more prevalent in the USA or UK than in other parts of the world, but this could be a cause. (Is my mind too sensitive for this phenomenon because I was ill in this disease as well?)
Do you speak in an asymmetrical way too? Do you know why?
If this is not related to English usage please don’t hesitate to move it to the Cultural topic.



Thanks a lot!
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I'm not sure what you mean by "asymmetrical", Veracity. There are very few people in the world with perfectly symmetrical faces. And, no, I'm pretty sure that Bell's Palsy doesn't have anything to do with it.:)

    Everyone has different lip and mouth shapes and accents and I haven't noticed other language speakers looking any more symmetrical than English-speakers.

    Could you explain what you mean a little further?

    By the way, Johnny Cash was one homely fellow and I really wouldn't use him as an example.:D
     

    dwipper

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    I would imagine that asymmetrical movements of the articulators is not the result of the language itself, but instead result of facial expressions concurrent with speech. If a speaker shows an asymmetrical facial expression which involves the mouth, the expression will continue despite the fact that the person in speaking.

    While some dialects of English certainly lend themselves toward more relaxed articulation, I doubt that asymmetric expressions during speech are limited to English. If anything, they are probably tied to conventions of facial gesture rather than language.
     

    veracity

    Senior Member
    "You might take this opportunity to analyse how you yourself make the sound L. A standard description is that you place the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, and then let the flow of air pass on either side of the mouth. In practice, many people prefer one side of the mouth to the other. In Wales, this preference becomes so strong that many people pronounce their Ls unilaterally -- on one side of the mouth. (There is a tradition that this goes with handedness -- right-handed people on the right, left-handed on the left.) Allegedly this is part of the mobility of South Welsh faces, as you see the mouth twitching to one side every time an L is pronounced. Whether this is true or not, a unilateral L leads to a unilateral LL, and this seems easier to most learners than the bilateral variety."

    From this link: http://canol.home.att.net/chap02.html

    I am happy, it seems I was right at least with Welsh...
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with dwipper here, veracity: I suspect what you may be detecting is "conventions of facial gesture".

    You make an interesting point about the Welsh "ll": I pronounce it with the right side of my mouth, and I'm also right-handed (I've never thought about that linkage before:)). It may well be true that Welsh speakers have a similar right or left preference for "l": I haven't noticed!

    I don't pronounce "l" on the right side, either in Welsh words or in English ones. And I can't think of any sounds in English which would normally be pronounced on one side of the mouth rather than the other...
     

    pioupiouz

    Senior Member
    France French
    :confused:I see exactly what you mean Veracity; in France, very often people or comedian who joke about English speakers, tend to speak English with only one side of their mouth, keeping the other side almost closed.
    When I speak English, I tend to do the same, it feels more natural strangely; So is it just me or it is the language?:confused:
     

    veracity

    Senior Member
    Thank you pioupiouz! I also remember now that in comical shows Hungarian actors imitated English speakers by speaking from on side of the mouth too. But it is only with English, never with German or others.
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Late to the party, but I have also noticed that I primarily use only one side of my mouth when speaking English. My guess is that I overcompensate for something that should be happening in the oral cavity.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I agree with dwipper here, veracity: I suspect what you may be detecting is "conventions of facial gesture".

    You make an interesting point about the Welsh "ll": I pronounce it with the right side of my mouth, and I'm also right-handed (I've never thought about that linkage before:)). It may well be true that Welsh speakers have a similar right or left preference for "l": I haven't noticed!

    I don't pronounce "l" on the right side, either in Welsh words or in English ones. And I can't think of any sounds in English which would normally be pronounced on one side of the mouth rather than the other...
    From Facial symmetry - Wikipedia

    The most conspicuous directional asymmetries are sometimes only temporary.[11] For example, during speech, most people (76%) tend to express greater amplitude of movement on the right side of their mouth. This is most likely caused by the uneven strengths of contralateral neural connections between the left hemisphere of the brain (linguistic localization) and the right side of the face.[12]
    Who knew?:) I suspect it's true in other languages besides English too.
     
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