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Mechanismus der menschlichen Sprache nebst Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine
Vienna: Degen, 1791. First Monograph on Speech Synthesis, the First Successful Speech SynthesizerKempelen, Wolfgang von (1734-1804). Mechanismus der menschlichen Sprache nebst Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine. 8vo. [20], 456pp. Engraved frontispiece portrait and 26 plates. Vienna: J. B. Degen, 1791. 200 x 125 mm. (uncut). Marbled boards, handwritten paper label c. 1791, spine a little sunned, light wear at hinges and corners. One signature (*) a little loose, otherwise a very fine copy. Ownership signature, dated 1812, on the front free endpaper.First Edition in German, issued simultaneously with the French edition, which was also published by Degen. The first monograph on speech synthesis, containing a description with 26 copperplate illustrations of von Kempelen's voice synthesizer, the forerunner not of sound recording devices such as the phonograph but of today's electronic computerized devices which actually synthesize speech. The work is also significant from a linguistic standpoint, as it contains a thorough analysis of phonetics (the study of the physical sounds of human speech) and discusses the nature and history of language."Kempelen first discusses in general terms the origins of languages and then considered the mechanisms and physiology of speech generation . . . On the nature of language Kempelen argues that human speech and reason are connected and that they develop together over time and he rejects the theory that all languages come from a single (divine) source. He studies the function of the organs of speech and discovers that the cavities over the larynx play the most important role in acoustic articulation" (Gedeon, Science and Technology in Medicine, p. 139)."After a detailed examination of the organs of speech von Kempelen devised a hollow oval box divided into two parts and fitted with hinges which made it like jaws. This box caught the sound coming from a tube connected to a bellows. By opening and shutting the jaws, the sounds a, o, and u could be produced, then the sound e could be rendered imperfectly but there was no provision for i. "After several years of investigation the inventor succeeded in securing by similar means the consonant sounds p, m, l, and by means of the vowels and consonants he could compose syllables and words such as maman, papa, aula, lama and mulo. But the sounds of letters of similar pronunciation became mixed. . . . Von Kempelen overcame these difficulties in imitating the human voice by means of a single mouth fitted with a glottis. The mouth was made up of a funnel or a bell-shaped device made of stretchable rubber. . . . To this mouth he added a nose made up of two tin tubes connected to it. When the two tubes were opened and the mouth was shut, a perfect m sound could be produced, and when one was open and the other shut, the n sound was obtained. . . . [Kempelen's machine] succeeded in reproducing entire words and phrases such as opera, astronomy, Constantinopolis, secundus, Romanorum Imperator semper augustus, etc. . . . Goethe heard it and reports that it was "able to say some childish words very nicely" (p. 322).Von Kempelen is best known as the inventor of the "Mechanical Turk," a chess-playing "automaton" that was in reality a mechanical illusion, operated by a human chess master concealed within the machine. Guyot, Liste littéraire sur les sourds-muëts, p. 7. Strandh, History of the Machine, pp. 130, 178.
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Last Found On: 2017-06-22           Check availability:      IOBABooks    


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