The ventriloquist dummy (VSD) was invented by James A. Ransom in the 1890s. In this dummy, a person’s voice was placed in a hollow tube. The voice sounds like that of a person, but in addition this was not a human voice but a voice of another animal, such as a dog.
Why was a voice in a tube the only way this was done to an animal? A dog’s mouth was not designed so that the voice would be in harmony with the human vocal organs. So, the person was placed in a tube so that the voice could be transmitted from mouth to mouth, and be heard just as if the person was doing it.
Why do people make this type of voice sound so different from human voice? We have more than our brains to learn and understand how a person actually sounds, but it does take practice and understanding what is not really understood or heard.
People also make the same vocalizations using their hands and other body parts, without using a throat-pump to move the vocalization forward with the mouth as one would with the voice. Some people use their fingers, others use fingers and toes or their knees. Some people may use their own breath, others use other people’s. Some people have a very high echolocation frequency but only talk to their own body, others have a very low, but they know how to use it in conjunction with other voices.
How do they use their voice to communicate? We hear the voice of someone we know but not understand, as in the example of the woman who says “Hey, can I have a bite” with her hands raised, not in a natural vocalization but in the context of a conversation. We also have the voices of people we cannot see in a normal way as in the example of one child’s voice as he sings in the street. So, there are other ways of communicating besides the traditional means of speaking such as the ventriloquist dummy.
Can a ventriloquist dummy sound like an actual person? Of course! There can be an exact correlation between the VSD in the ventriloquist dummy and the original voice and body or voice sounds of what would ordinarily be considered human voice. And, if you can hear the voice with the mouth closed, then you can also hear the voice through closed jaw.
Why are people so surprised to find that a ventriloquist dummy sounds like an actual living person? Is this because