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Either of two folds of mucous membrane that extend across the interior cavity of the larynx and are primarily responsible for voice production. Sound is produced by the vibration of the folds in response to the passage between them of air exhaled from the lungs. The pitch of sound varies with the degree of vocal-cord tension. Sounds are then modified by the tongue, palate, and lips to produce speech. When at rest, the vocal cords lie apart, forming a V-shaped opening (glottis) through which air is breathed. The folds located just above the vocal cords are termed the vestibular or false vocal cords because they are not involved in voice production. Inflammation (as from excessive use) limits the normal contraction of the vocal cords, resulting in hoarseness.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on vocal cord, visit Britannica.com.