Elements of Speech Sounds

We were recently graced by an incredible teacher who gave us a glimpse into the “Art of the Spoken Word“. I have a particular interest in this subject as linguistics and social communication are topics that I have studied independently. I have had some training in phonetics, speech development in children, and have spent time with children who have difficulties with understanding social behaviors (which is essential to being a healthy, functional part of our society). Speech and langauge (communication) is one of those things that humans learn so naturally. Language acquisition is a subject that philosophers have discussed for eons. 

Our speaker made associations with speech sounds and their archetypal elements. Words are shaped by speech sounds and when spoken can take on the quality of the element within. She claimed that the element archetypes speak to our inner soul. 

You are likely familiar with the four basic elements, fire, air, earth, water. The element is associated with the consonants in the word and more specifically with the most strongly accented syllable. Or, the syllable that one accents when speaking it aloud, as emphasis can change within speech (especially poetry or theater).

Here is the basic breakdown of the elements and their associated speech sounds.

We were asked to write two pieces of poetry using elemental sound design. The first poem was to encorporate as much of one element as possible. The second should begin with one element and then slowly transition into another before finishing off within the essence of that second element. Additionally, this is the art of the spoken word so the intention was for the poems to be heard. In this vein, I suggest you read the poems aloud so that you can truly feel their essential value. 


A poultice made of mandrake and mint
might madden the knight enough that —
he digs down into the ground, 
under mud, the thunder loud
the mount now broken.

WATER flows

into FIRE

Over a wealth of millennia,
women wearing linen
wander fields of flax flower
longing for love.
A ritual. 
A prophecy.
Like the silver spinning wheel
fixes fiber fast
With faith.


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