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A throat-clear is a sound made at the back of the throat [1] by tightly constricting the laryngopharyngeal tissues and vibrating the palatoglossal arch and the vocal folds while exhaling through the nose; [2] this may be done with the mouth slightly opened or completely closed.

Throat anterior part of the neck, in front of the vertebra

In vertebrate anatomy, the throat is the front part of the neck, positioned in front of the vertebra. It contains the pharynx and larynx. An important section of it is the epiglottis, separating the esophagus from the trachea (windpipe), preventing food and drinks being inhaled into the lungs. The throat contains various blood vessels, pharyngeal muscles, the nasopharyngeal tonsil, the tonsils, the palatine uvula, the trachea, the esophagus, and the vocal cords. Mammal throats consist of two bones, the hyoid bone and the clavicle. The "throat" is sometimes thought to be synonymous for the fauces.

Palatoglossal arch

The palatoglossal arch on either side runs downward, lateral, and forward to the side of the base of the tongue, and is formed by the projection of the glossopalatine muscle with its covering mucous membrane. It is the anterior border of the isthmus of the fauces and marks the border between the mouth and the palatopharyngeal arch. The latter marks the beginning of the pharynx.


The throat-clear is articulated as a single-syllable exclamation, written onomatopoeiacally as "hem"; [3] or it may be articulated as a double-syllable sound, written as "ahem", [4] which is expressed by inhaling slightly and then exhaling more forcibly.

Onomatopoeia Word whose pronunciation imitates sound of its denotation

Onomatopoeia ; from the Greek ὀνοματοποιία; ὄνομα for "name" and ποιέω for "I make", adjectival form: "onomatopoeic" or "onomatopoetic", also onomatopœia is the process of creating a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. As such words are uncountable nouns, onomatopoeia refers to the property of such words. Common occurrences of words of the onomatopoeia process include animal noises such as "oink", "meow", "roar" and "chirp". Onomatopoeia can differ between languages: it conforms to some extent to the broader linguistic system; hence the sound of a clock may be expressed as "tick tock" in English, "tic tac" in Spanish and Italian, "dī dā" in Mandarin, "katchin katchin" in Japanese, or "tik-tik" in Hindi.


The deliberately executed throat-clear is a nonverbal, paralingual form of metacommunication. [5] A loud, exaggerated throat-clearing noise may sometimes be used to get attention.

Upper respiratory

The throat-clear may be articulated consciously or unconsciously [6] as a symptom of a number of laryngopharyngeal (upper respiratory tract) ailments. [7]

The unconscious mind consists of the processes in the mind which occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memories, interests, and motivations.


Continual throat-clearing is a symptom of chronically dry vocal cords, caused by insufficiently produced amounts of mucus due to inadequate amounts of water and by excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol. [8]

Vocal cords composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally, from back to front, across the larynx. They vibrate, modulating the flow of air being expelled from the lungs during phonation

The vocal cords, also known as vocal folds, are folds of tissue in the throat that are key in creating sounds through vocalization. The size of vocal cords affects the pitch of voice. Open when breathing and vibrating for speech or singing, the folds are controlled via the recurrent laryngeal branch of the vagus nerve.

Mucus Secretion produced by mucous membranes

Mucus is a polymer. It is a slippery aqueous secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. It is typically produced from cells found in mucous glands, although it may also originate from mixed glands, which contain both serous and mucous cells. It is a viscous colloid containing inorganic salts, antimicrobial enzymes, immunoglobulins, and glycoproteins such as lactoferrin and mucins, which are produced by goblet cells in the mucous membranes and submucosal glands. Mucus serves to protect epithelial cells in the linings of the respiratory, digestive, and urogenital systems, and structures in the visual, and auditory systems from pathogenic fungi, bacteria and viruses. Most of the mucus in the body is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.

Related Research Articles

Consonant speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract

In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are, pronounced with the lips;, pronounced with the front of the tongue;, pronounced with the back of the tongue;, pronounced in the throat; and, pronounced by forcing air through a narrow channel (fricatives); and and, which have air flowing through the nose (nasals). Contrasting with consonants are vowels.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin alphabet. It was devised by the International Phonetic Association in the late 19th century as a standardized representation of the sounds of spoken language. The IPA is used by lexicographers, foreign language students and teachers, linguists, speech-language pathologists, singers, actors, constructed language creators and translators.

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies the sounds of human speech, or—in the case of sign languages—the equivalent aspects of sign. It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds or signs (phones): their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory perception, and neurophysiological status.

A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in quantity (length). They are usually voiced, and are closely involved in prosodic variation such as tone, intonation and stress.

Larynx voice box, an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles, and mammals

The larynx, commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the top of the neck involved in breathing, producing sound, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. The larynx houses the vocal folds, and manipulates pitch and volume, which is essential for phonation. It is situated just below where the tract of the pharynx splits into the trachea and the esophagus. The word larynx comes from a similar Ancient Greek word.

Palatine uvula fleshy appendage that hangs from the back of the palate

The palatine uvula, usually referred to as simply the uvula , is a conic projection from the back edge of the middle of the soft palate, composed of connective tissue containing a number of racemose glands, and some muscular fibers. It also contains many serous glands, which produce thin saliva.

An interjection is a word or expression that occurs as an utterance on its own and expresses a spontaneous feeling or reaction. It is a diverse category, encompassing a number of different parts of speech, such as exclamations (ouch!, wow!), curses (damn!), greetings, response particles, hesitation markers and other words. Due to its diverse nature, the category of interjections partly overlaps with a few other categories like profanities, discourse markers and fillers. The use and linguistic discussion of interjections can be traced historically through the Greek and Latin Modistae over many centuries.

Phlegm is a liquid secreted by the mucous membranes of mammals. Its definition is limited to the mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that from the nasal passages, and particularly that which is expelled by coughing (sputum). Phlegm is in essence a water-based gel consisting of glycoproteins, immunoglobulins, lipids and other substances. Its composition varies depending on climate, genetics, and state of the immune system. Its color can vary from transparent to pale or dark yellow and green, from light to dark brown, and even to dark grey depending on the constituents. The body naturally produces a quart of phlegm every day to capture and clear substances in the air and bacteria from the nose and throat.

Tic Repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups

A tic is a sudden, repetitive, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization involving discrete muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to the observer, such as abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Common motor and phonic tics are, respectively, eye blinking and throat clearing.

Laryngitis inflammation of the larynx

Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx. Symptoms often include a hoarse voice and may include fever, cough, pain in the front of the neck, and trouble swallowing. Typically, these last under two weeks.

Paralanguage, also known as vocalics, is a component of meta-communication that may modify meaning, give nuanced meaning, or convey emotion, by using techniques such as prosody, pitch, volume, intonation, etc. It is sometimes defined as relating to nonphonemic properties only. Paralanguage may be expressed consciously or unconsciously.

In phonology, tenseness or tensing is, most broadly, the pronunciation of a sound with greater muscular effort or constriction than is typical. More specifically, tenseness is the pronunciation of a vowel with narrower mouth width and usually with less centralization and longer duration compared with another vowel, perhaps even causing a phonemic contrast between the two vowels. The opposite quality of tenseness, in which a vowel is produced as relatively more widened, centralized, and shortened is called laxness or laxing.

Post-nasal drip disorder that occurs when excessive mucus is produced by the nasal mucosa

Post-nasal drip (PND) occurs when excessive mucus is produced by the nasal mucosa. The excess mucus accumulates in the back of the nose and eventually the throat once it drips down the back of the throat. It can be caused by rhinitis, sinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or by a disorder of swallowing. Other causes can be allergy, cold, flu, and side effects from medications.

Rhinorrhea type of medical symptom where the nasal cavity is filled with fluid mucus

Rhinorrhea or rhinorrhoea is a condition where the nasal cavity is filled with a significant amount of mucus fluid. The condition, commonly known as a runny nose, occurs relatively frequently. Rhinorrhea is a common symptom of allergies or certain viral infections, such as the common cold. It can be a side effect of crying, exposure to cold temperatures, cocaine abuse or withdrawal, such as from opioids like methadone. Treatment for rhinorrhea is not usually necessary, but there are a number of medical treatments and preventive techniques available.

Articulation is a fundamental musical parameter that determines how a single note or other discrete event is sounded. Articulations primarily structure an event's start and end, determining the length of its sound and the shape of its attack and decay. They can also modify an event's timbre, dynamics, and pitch. Musical articulation is analagous to the articulation of speech, and during the Baroque and Classical periods it was taught by comparison to oratory.

Egophony is an increased resonance of voice sounds heard when auscultating the lungs, often caused by lung consolidation and fibrosis. It is due to enhanced transmission of high-frequency sound across fluid, such as in abnormal lung tissue, with lower frequencies filtered out. It results in a high-pitched nasal or bleating quality in the affected person's voice.

Laryngopharyngeal reflux retrograde flow of gastric contents to the upper aero-digestive tract, which causes a variety of symptoms, such as cough, hoarseness, and wheezing

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) is the retrograde flow of gastric contents into the larynx, oropharynx and/or the nasopharynx. LPR causes respiratory symptoms such as cough and wheezing and is often associated with head and neck complaints such as dysphonia, globus pharyngis, and dysphagia. LPR may play a role in other diseases, such as sinusitis, otitis media, and rhinitis, and can be a comorbidity of asthma. While LPR is commonly used interchangeably with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it presents with a different pathophysiology.

This article is about the production of intelligible speech.

Hemi-laryngopharyngeal spasm or HeLPS is a neurological condition with symptoms of episodic severe coughing and choking due to a unilateral compression of the vagus nerve. It is one of the neurovascular compression syndromes.


  1. "CLEAR YOUR THROAT | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary".
  2. "Throat anatomy" . Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  3. Nänny, Max; Fischer, Olga (1999). Form Miming Meaning: Iconicity in Language and Literature. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN   9789027221797 . Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  4. "Written Sound - Onomatopoeia dictionary".
  5. "ahem". Onomatopoeia List. August 10, 2013.
  6. "Definition of unconsciously |".
  7. "Throat Clearing - Symptoms, Causes, Treatments". June 26, 2014.
  8. "Throat Spray Clearner" . Retrieved 2017-01-08.