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The "hot potato voice" is widely recognized as a symptom of peritonsillar cellulitis or abscess; yet there have been no studies assessing the resonance characteristics of the vocal tract in peritonsillitis. Analysis was undertaken of formant frequencies in the articulation of the vowels /i:/. /a:/ and /u:/ in six subjects with peritonsillitis and compared with articulation once the peritonsillitis had settled. Significant variation was found in F1 when articulating /i:/ and in F2 when articulating /a:/, which are explainable by dyskinesis of the peritonsillar musculature. These findings were compared with six subjects articulating the same vowels with and without a hot potato in their mouth. Variation was found in both F1 and F2 when articulating /i:/, which can be related to interference of the potato with movement of the anterior tongue. The changes in the vocal tract differ in these two cases and the title "hot potato voice" in peritonsillitis is a misnomer.

Original publication




Journal article


J Voice

Publication Date





616 - 622


Adolescent, Adult, Female, Humans, Male, Peritonsillar Abscess, Phonetics, Severity of Illness Index, Terminology as Topic, Voice Disorders, Voice Quality