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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.


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.


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]


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]

Related Research Articles

Consonant Speech sound

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.

International Phonetic Alphabet Alphabetic system of phonetic notation

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script. 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.

Onomatopoeia Word whose pronunciation imitates sound of its denotation

Onomatopoeia is the process of creating a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. Such a word itself is also called an onomatopoeia. Common onomatopoeias 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.

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans make and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. The field of phonetics is traditionally divided into three sub-disciplines based on the research questions involved such as how humans plan and execute movements to produce speech, how different movements affect the properties of the resulting sound, or how humans convert sound waves to linguistic information. Traditionally, the minimal linguistic unit of phonetics is the phone—a speech sound in a language—which differs from the phonological unit of phoneme; the phoneme is an abstract categorization of phones.

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.

Snorkeling Swimming while breathing through a snorkel

Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped breathing tube called a snorkel, and usually swimfins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods with relatively little effort and to breathe while face-down at the surface.

Vocal music

Vocal music is a type of singing performed by one or more singers, either with instrumental accompaniment, or without instrumental accompaniment, in which singing provides the main focus of the piece. Music which employs singing but does not feature it prominently is generally considered to be instrumental music as is music without singing. Music without any non-vocal instrumental accompaniment is referred to as a cappella.

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 many 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 mucus produced by the respiratory system, excluding that produced by the nasal passages. It often refers to respiratory mucus expelled by coughing, otherwise known as sputum. Phlegm, and mucus as a whole, 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 about 1 quart of phlegm every day to capture and clear substances in the air and bacteria from the nose and throat.


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.

The voiced labio-velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in certain spoken languages, including English. It is the sound denoted by the letter ⟨w⟩ in the English alphabet; likewise, the symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨w⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is w. In most languages it is a labialized velar approximant, and the semivocalic counterpart of the close back rounded vowel - i.e. the non-syllabic close back rounded vowel. In inventory charts of languages with other labialized velar consonants, will be placed in the same column as those consonants. When consonant charts have only labial and velar columns, may be placed in the velar column, (bi)labial column, or both. The placement may have more to do with phonological criteria than phonetic ones.

The voiced palatal approximant is a type of consonant used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨j⟩. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is j, and in the Americanist phonetic notation it is ⟨y⟩. Because the English name of the letter J, jay, starts with, the approximant is sometimes instead called yod (jod), as in the phonological history terms yod-dropping and yod-coalescence.

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.

Post-nasal drip

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 in the throat once it drips down the back of the throat. It can be caused by rhinitis, sinusitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, 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 the free discharge of a thin nasal 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.

Vocal cord dysfunction(VCD), is a pathology affecting the vocal folds characterized by full or partial vocal fold closure causing difficulty and distress during respiration, especially during inhalation.

Solresol Constructed language

Solresol, originally called Langue universelle and then Langue musicale universelle, is a language invented by François Sudre, beginning in 1827. His major book on it, Langue Musicale Universelle, was published after his death in 1866, though he had already been publicizing it for some years. Solresol enjoyed a brief spell of popularity, reaching its pinnacle with Boleslas Gajewski's 1902 publication of Grammaire du Solresol. An ISO 639-3 language code had been requested on 28 July 2017, but was rejected on 1 February 2018.

Voice therapy

Voice therapy consists of techniques and procedures that target vocal parameters, such as vocal fold closure, pitch, volume, and quality. This therapy is provided by speech-language pathologists and is primarily used to aid in the management of voice disorders, or for altering the overall quality of voice, as in the case of transgender voice therapy.(vocal pedagogy) is a related field to alter voice for the purpose of singing. Voice therapy may also serve to teach preventive measures such as vocal hygiene and other safe speaking or singing practices.

Oral skills are speech enhancers that are used to produce clear sentences that is intelligible to an audience. Oral skills are used to enhance the clarity of speech for effective communication. Communication is the transmission of messages and the correct interpretation of information between people. The production speech is insisted by the respiration of air from the lungs that initiates the vibrations in the vocal cords. The cartilages in the larynx adjust the shape, position and tension of the vocal cords. Speech enhancers are used to improve the clarity and pronunciation of speech for correct interpretation of speech. The articulation of voice enhances the resonance of speech and enables people to speak intelligibly. Speaking at a moderate pace and using clear pronunciation improves the phonation of sounds. The term "phonation" means the process to produce intelligible sounds for the correct interpretation of speech. Speaking in a moderate tone enables the audience to process the information word for word.


  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.