George Oscar Russell


George Oscar Russell was born in Conejos, Colorado in 1890. He studied in several European universities, including Berlin and Koenigsberg from 1910 to 1913, Paris, Lyon, Madrid, and Vienna from 1923-1925. He received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in Utah in 1915 and served as an instructor of phonetics at Columbia University from 1916 to 1917. From 1917 to 1919, during the first world war, he served in US army.

When Russell returned to the US after the war he worked on his master's degree at Columbia University. Following this, he became an associate professor at the University of Iowa, serving in that capacity from 1919 to 1923. In 1919, he published an article on a method he devised for recording tongue movements in the production of a Spanish "r". Moses described the method thusly:

Baseplate wax or thin dental compound was used to make the impression of the hard palate. This palate was cut in two, following the median raphe or natural division of the hard palate; then lead-foil strips one millimeter in width were fastened to the roof of the palate about a centimeter apart. This partial palate was inserted into the mouth and the sound articulated, the direction of the tongue being determined from the direction in which the foil strips were bent (Moses, 1964, p. 22).

Following his job at the University of Iowa, Russell took a position of a visiting professor at the University of Chicago (1923-1924). He spent the summers of the years 1925 to 1927 in Mexico, serving as the Director of the National University of Mexico's summer school.

In 1925 Russell joined the faculty of the Ohio State University as an assistant professor in the department of Spanish. He was then promoted to professor and chair of the newly formed division of phonetics and director of the language laboratories at The Ohio State University, serving in that role for 11 years, from 1930 to 1941.

In 1928, while he was on the faculty at OSU he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Russell published his dissertation that same year, the oft-cited book The Vowel. The book was a radiological study of speech articulation in which Russell highlighted individual differences in speech production. Specifically he analyzed vowel articulations under changes in head and neck posture. Moses describes two of his methods as follows:

He, like others before him, used outines of the palate as a means of recording contacts. He made, however, one notable change. He devised a scheme whereby the depth and control of the palate arch might be designated on the flat surface of the outline. In this technique a base-metal model of the hard palate was made. The model was placed upside down on a glass under which a lighted mirror was placed. Beginning at the median line of the palate, the entire surface was marked off in centimeter intervals by a series of pinholes. These dots were located along parallel and right-angled lines. The palate then was turned over, a paper placed on top, and the light shining through the pinholes allowed the dots to be traced on paper. The result, with the dots in this arrangement, provided an idea of the arch and irregularities of the palate, because wherever the palate surface sloped the dots were closer together. Moses, while a student at the University of Michigan, applied the same technique to the palatographic experiments.

Russell also followed the planimeter process of Heinitz and Panconcelli-Clazie, improving upon it and adding the medium of X-ray. He first made a precise centimeter measurement of the horizontal cavity by superimposing the palatogram on millimeter cross-section paper. Second, he obtained a parallel centimeter measurement, giving the area accurately enough in square centimeters and even more rapidly than Heinitz and Panconcelli-Calzia. Third, he combined these with the same computations on simultaneously made X-ray profiles of the cavity to ascertain the cubic capacity and to make reconstruction of the cavity possible. Fourth, by combining photographic and X-ray techniques, he indicated for the first time the horizontal lip spread on the palatogram. All this, along with an X-ray palatographic record of cavity dimensions in three planes, made possible a reliable reconstruction of the resonator.

Moses, 1964, p. 23

In 1941, Russell shifted gears and took a position as superintendent of the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, serving in that capacity for one year. In 1941 to 1943 he also served as the director of Utah State Research laboratories

Russell was the first editor of the Journal of Speech Disorders serving in that capacity for a number of years. He also served on the executive council of the Acoustical Society of America (1933-1936).

Russell died on March 17, 1962. His personal and professional papers are housed at the Gallaudet University Archives.

Writings of G. Oscar Russell, Chronologically Arranged

Russell, G. O. (1919). The pronunciation of the Spanish R. Modern Language Journal, 174-184.

Russell, G. O. (1927). Visualizing speech for the deaf. American Annals of the Deaf, 72, 329-340. (x rays of back vowels cavities during speech).

Russell, G. O. (1928). The vowel, its psychological mechanism, as shown by x-ray. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press. (A historical survey of vowel theories and an x-ray study of the nature of the vowel with respect to its physiological mechanism.)

Russell, G. O. (1928). Uncanny deaf speech. Volta review, 30, 566-572. (Plea for teaching the use of weak forms.)

Russell, G. O. (1928). Some terms of physics for linguists. Language, 4, 93-98. (Treats pitch, vowel pitch, voice pitch and loudness.

Russell, G. O. (1929). Stammering and stuttering. Oralism and Auralism, 8, 85-97.

Russell, G. O. (1929). Normal speech pitch patterns for the deaf: A new approach. Oralism and Auralism, 8, 1-17.

Russell, G. O. (1929). Physiological cause of guttural and piercing deaf voices. Oralism and Auralism, 8, 98-104.

Russell, G. O. (1929). The mechanism of speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1, 83-109. (Russell addresses the question of "what causes vowel and voice quality differences"? He also presents proof that the cavity tone theories of speech are superficial.)

Russell, G. O. (1930). Physiological cause of voice quality in singing (pp. 114-119). Carnegie Institution of Washington. Washington, D. C: The institution.

Russell, G. O. & Tuttle, C. H. (1930). Color movies of vocal cord action-an aid in diagnosis. Laryngoscope, 40, 549-552.

Russell, G. O. (1931). Speech and voice with x-rays of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, soprano, tenor, and baritone subjects. NY: Macmillan Co. ("This volume has been assembled for the primary purpose of presenting a comprehensive series of speech and voice cavity x rays, together with a laryngo-periskopik study of vocal cord and interior laryngeal function. The two studies combined thus cover the entire mechanism involved in creating speech and voice quality differences.")

Russell, G. O. (1931). Neuro-pedagogical process of treating stammerers and stutterers at Ohio State University. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association, 1, 188-192.

Russell, G. O. (1931). Down-pulling of the thyroid on the cricoid may lower voice pitch. Archives Neerlandaises de Phonetique Experimentale, 6, 88-91.

Russell, G. O. (1934). First preliminary x-ray consonant study. Journal of Acoustical Society of America, 5, 247-251.

Russell, G. O. (1936). Etiology of follicular pharyngitis, catarrahal laryngitis, so called clergyman's throat and singers nodes Journal of Speech Disorders, 1, 113-122.

Russell, G. O. (1936). Speech clinics: An unfulfilled need. Modern Hospital, 47, 87-89.

Russell, G. O. (1936). Physiological cause of voice quality differences. Yearbook of Carnegie Institution of Washington. Washington, D. C.: The Institution.

Russell, G. O. Synchronized x-ray, oscillograph, sound and movie experiments, showing the fallacy of vowel triangle and open-closed theories. In D. Jones & D. B. Fry (Eds.) Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, London: Cambridge University Press.

Russell, G. O. (1938). Aphasia learning and re-education. Proceedings of the American Speech Correction Association, 8, 5-16.