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Voice, also known as diathesis, is a grammatical feature that describes the relationship between the verb and the subject (also known as the agent) in a sentence. More specifically, voice describes how the verb is expressed or written in relation to the agent.
There are two main types of voice: active voice and passive voice. A third type of voice called “middle” voice also exists but is less commonly used.
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sound produced by living beings. The source of the sound in human speaking and singing is the vibration of the vocal cords, which are inside the larynxlarynx
, organ of voice in mammals. Commonly known as the voice box, the larynx is a tubular chamber about 2 in. (5 cm) high, consisting of walls of cartilage bound by ligaments and membranes, and moved by muscles. The human larynx extends from the trachea, or windpipe.
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, and the production of the sounds is called phonation. The vocal cords are set into vibration by air from the lungs that moves through the windpipe passing over them, and they in turn produce resonance in the column of air enclosed by the pharynx. The mouth and throat are variable in size and shape, thus permitting alteration of vowel sound and pitchpitch,
in music, the position of a tone in the musical scale, today designated by a letter name and determined by the frequency of vibration of the source of the tone. Pitch is an attribute of every musical tone; the fundamental, or first harmonic, of any tone is perceived as
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. At puberty the vocal cords of the male become approximately double their original length, with the result that the average adult male voice is about an octave lower in pitch than the female.

The Voice in Music

Not only is the voice the principal means of human communication, but it was undoubtedly the first musical instrument. The principal difference between singing and speaking is that in singing the vowel sounds are sustained and given definite pitch. Despite the innate and natural quality of singing, the training of the singing voice for artistic purposes is among the most subtle and difficult branches of music pedagogy. The instrument is within the performer, and the condition of the vocal apparatus, and thus the quality of the voice, is strictly dependent on the physical and mental condition of the singer. Since the vocal impulse cannot actually be described, the teacher's task is to provide the pupil with concepts, usually systematized into a vocal "method," that will free the vocal apparatus from restrictive tensions and lead ultimately to the complete coordination of all the faculties involved. The foundation of the scientific study of the voice was laid in the middle of the 19th cent. by Manuel Patricio Rodríguez García, a successful voice teacher and writer, who invented the laryngoscope (used to examine the interior of the larynx).

Because of the great changes that have taken place in the art of singing within Western musical culture, modern singers can only approximate the vocal timbre of previous eras. Gregorian chant may have been sung with a nasal timbre resembling Oriental technique. The Neapolitan operatic school developed the virtuoso art of bel canto, in which brilliance of vocal technique was stressed rather than romantic expression or dramatic interpretation. The sound of the castrato (see eunucheunuch
[Gr.,=keeper of the couch], castrated human male, particularly a chamberlain of a harem in Asia. The custom of employing eunuchs as servants in wealthy or royal households is very ancient; it reached its epitome at the court of Constantinople under the Byzantine emperors,
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), for which many 17th- and 18th-century soprano and alto roles were intended, is approached by several contemporary countertenorscountertenor,
a male singing voice in the alto range. Singing in this range requires either a special vocal technique called falsetto, or a high extension of the tenor range.
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 using falsettofalsetto
[Ital.,=diminutive of false], high-pitched, unnatural tones above the normal register of the male voice, produced, according to some theories, by the vibration of only the edges of the larynx. Some male altos are tenors skilled in the use of falsetto.
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 techniques. The electronic microphone has, in recent times, had an enormous impact on the voice and on styles of singing, through its ability to project very quiet, intimate sounds, and to magnify exciting sounds to a feverish intensity.

Singing voices are classified according to range as sopranosoprano
[Ital.,=above], female voice of highest pitch. The three basic types of solo soprano are coloratura, lyric, and dramatic. The coloratura has a great range and impressive vocal agility; the lyric soprano has a light, pretty voice; and the dramatic soprano has a sustained
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 and contralto, the high and low female voices, with mezzo-soprano as an intermediate classification; and as tenortenor,
highest natural male voice. In medieval polyphony, tenor was the name given to the voice that had the cantus firmus, a preexisting melody, often a fragment of plainsong, to which other voices in counterpoint were added.
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 and bassbass
, in musical harmony, the part of lowest pitch. The term is used for the lowest-pitched male voice and for instruments of low pitch, such as bass clarinet, bass drum, bassoon (bass oboe), and bass trombone.
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, the high and low male voices, with baritonebaritone
or barytone
, male voice, in a lighter and higher range than a bass but lower than a tenor. The term also designates a bass stringed instrument, fretted, with six or seven bowed strings, and up to 20 sympathetic (i.e., unplayed but freely vibrating) strings.
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 as an intermediate classification. Within these ranges there are specific designations of the quality of a voice, e.g., coloratura soprano. Choral music generally requires a range of about an octave and a half for each voice; a solo singer must have at least two octaves, and some have been known to possess ranges of three, even three and a half, octaves. See also songsong,
relatively brief, simple vocal composition, usually a setting of a poetic text, often strophic, for accompanied solo voice. The song literature of Western music embodies two broad classifications—folk song and art song.
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See D. Stevens, ed., A History of Song (1960); R. Luchsinger and G. E. Arnold, Voice, Speech, Language (1965); R. Rushmore, The Singing Voice (1971); S. Butenschon and H. Borchgrevink, Voice and Song (1982).


grammatical category according to which an action is referred to as done by the subject (active, e.g., men shoot bears) or to the subject (passive, e.g., bears are shot by men). In Latin, voice is a category of inflectioninflection,
in grammar. In many languages, words or parts of words are arranged in formally similar sets consisting of a root, or base, and various affixes. Thus walking, walks, walker have in common the root walk and the affixes -ing, -s, and -er.
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 like mood or tense. In ancient Greek, verbs were conjugated in three voices: active, passive, and middle (reflexive).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an aggregate of sounds varying in pitch, volume, and timbre produced by the vocal apparatus in man and in animals that have lungs. Reflexes of throat muscles (sneezing, coughing) produce vocal sounds. Man uses his voice to express his sensations, feelings, and thoughts (shouting, laughing, crying, conversational speech, and singing).

There are both muscular-elastic and neuromuscular theories of phonation, the production of sounds by the voice. According to the muscular-elastic theory, the closing of the vocal cords marks the beginning of the production of any sound. Then the intertracheal pressure increases until it exceeds the tension of the vocal cords, causing the intertracheal air to break out of the larynx. The vocal cords begin to vibrate, producing resonance in the column of air above the vocal cords as well. The frequency of vibration depends on the length and tension of the vocal cords, which is in turn dependent on the functional condition of the muscles of the larynx.

According to the neuromuscular theory, the number of vibrations of the vocal cords per second corresponds to the number of impulses from the central nervous system.

The voice pitch depends on the frequency of vibration of the vocal cords, which in turn is determined by their length, thickness, and tension. The voice’s volume is determined by the amplitude of the vocal cord vibrations, which varies as a function of the strength of the stream of air passing over the vocal cords. Timbre is determined by the presence of overtones, which are produced largely in the resonating parts of the vocal apparatus. It is often possible to distinguish individuals by differences in voice timbre.

The development of the voice proceeds gradually (although quantitative leaps in development do occur), parallel to the general maturation of the organism and the central nervous and endocrine systems. The voice of all newborns and infants has the same pitch (A above middle C) and the same timbre; the only variation is in volume. With age the range of sounds widens in pitch and volume, and the timbre, which usually does not change until old age, begins to form. In old age the range of sounds narrows in both pitch and volume. The most radical change in the voice occurs at puberty—voice “breaking” or mutation. This period occurs at age 11–12 to 18–19 and lasts from five or six months to up to two or three and even five years. In this period the larynx of boys increases more than 1½ times in size, while the larynx of girls increases by one-third. Because of the hyperemia of the vocal cords, adolescents often experience excessive tiring when using their voices as well as hoarseness without apparent cause during the period of voice mutation.

Disturbances of the voice occur as a result of pathological changes in any part of the vocal apparatus, but most often as a result of dysfunction of the larynx. Often change of the voice function afflicts those using their voices professionally (singers, teachers). Overtiring is a common cause of voice loss, especially among children and adolescents as a result of loud conversation or singing. Singing music with a high tessitura that exceeds the voice’s normal age limits can also cause voice change. Voice changes may also occur as a result of diseases of the cardiovascular or nervous systems, resulting in changes that vary from slight hoarseness to complete aphonia.


Fomichev, M. I. Osnovy foniatrii. [Leningrad] 1949.
Ermolaev, V. G. “Nekotorye voprosy foniatrii.” In Mnogotomnoe rukovodstvo po otorinolaringologii, vol. 4. Moscow, 1963.
Husson, R. Physiologie de la phonation. Paris, 1962. (Bibliography.)




the grammatical category of the verb that expresses different correlations of an action and its participants or different presentations of these relations in communication. For example, the reflexive voice expresses the identity of the subject and object of the action (on moetsia, “he washes [himself]” = on moet sebia, “he washes himself”); the reciprocal voice indicates that the participants of an action are simultaneously the subjects and objects (the Yukaghir fawyrek nangaindngi, “they began to shoot arrows at each other”).

The active and passive voices are differentiated according to which of the participants of the action serves as the main theme of the communication: the subject (active voice) or the object (passive voice). These voices are distinguished in languages in which the forms of the subject and the object in the sentence are differentiated (for example, by case or word order). If the verb is in the active voice, the subject is in the fundamental case, while the object is in an oblique case (Petia chitaet knigu, “Petia is reading the book”). In the passive voice there is the reverse correlation (kniga chitaet-sia Petei, “the book is being read by Petia”).

Some linguists consider as voice forms of a verb those in which the subject is not expressed (dorogu zaneslo, “the road was covered with snow”) or is in an oblique case (mne kazhetsia, “it seems to me”), as well as forms for which the object is not expressed (Gilyak n’i p’otf, “I am sewing, occupied with sewing”). In different languages the number of voice oppositions varies, and in a number of languages they are totally lacking. Formally, voice can be expressed by an affix (razbivaetsia, “is breaking”), by internal inflection (Arabic yuktabu, “is written”), or by auxiliary words (English was built}.


Kategoriia zaloga: Materialy konferentsii [25-29 marta 1970]. Leningrad, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

What does it mean when you dream about a voice?

A voice in a dream could be another part of ourselves trying to get our attention, either our unconscious or an aspect we have cut ourselves off from. A dream voice could also be drawing on the meaning of expressions like “a voice in the wilderness” or to “speak with one voice.”

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


1. the sound made by the vibration of the vocal cords, esp when modified by the resonant effect of the tongue and mouth
2. the musical sound of a singing voice, with respect to its quality or tone
3. the ability to speak, sing, etc.
4. Music
a. musical notes produced by vibrations of the vocal cords at various frequencies and in certain registers
b. (in harmony) an independent melodic line or part
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) See MIDI voices.

(2) (Voice) A social media platform in beta as of March 2020. Based on the EOSIO blockchain, Voice uses an authentication system that ensures posts are created by humans and not bots. When posts go live, members earn tokens based on the message's popularity, and the more tokens earned, the higher the post ranks. See EOSIO.
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References in periodicals archive ?
In all, four unique styles are posited: (a) no-action; (b) voice actions only; (c) voice and private actions; (d) voice, private, and third-party actions; corresponding to passive, voicer, irate, and activist segments.
Furthermore, while the voicers have the highest EV-Voice (mean = 16.47, F = 17.07), the activists are the most alienated from the marketplace (mean = 3.08, F = 11.44), evaluate consequences from voice, and particularly private (mean = 18.33, F = 39.95), and third-party actions (mean = 13.40, F = 22.65) more positively than any other group, and possess the most positive attitude towards complaining (mean = 4.39 [F = 15.18] and 4.80 [F = 5.92]).
Consistent with this, this function appears to differentiate between the voicers and all other groups.
To conclude the analysis of the data, we assessed how well the independent variables of the model differentiated among individuals who were unequivocal exiters, voicers, loyalists, or neglecers.
Because supervisors generally answered that most employees were not active voicers, their responses were simply coded as yes (14 percent) or no (86 percent) for each employee.
For example, Singh (1990a) found some preliminary support for a characterization that includes "passives" (no action), "voicers" (public action only to sellers), "irates" (combination of private and public complaints to sellers), and "activists" (voice to both third parties and sellers and private voice).