The Eighth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (Leeds, 1975) provided an opportunity, at a discussion seminar called specially for that purpose, ‘The larynx and language’, for phoneticians anxious to put phonation distinctions on a more systematic footing to appeal to specialists in the aerodynamic aspects of laryngal activity and in the physiology of the larynx to help them with criteria to define the phonation distinctions so far observed in languages. In introducing the topic at the discussion seminar E. J. A. Henderson confined her examples to Cambodian, to illustrate the ‘sepulchral’ phonation appropriate to what she terms the lower register (Henderson 1952: 157); but a number of languages are listed in Catford 1964 as making lexically distinctive use of phonation types, Danish, Hindi, Nilotic, Javanese, and Gujerati (p. 36); and Ladefoged 1971 lists some of these and a considerable number of others, including Sindhi, Zulu, Hausa, Wolof, and French (pp. 12–19). In part this article is a continuation of that attempt to attract the attention of instrumental phoneticians to problems posed by phonation differences in languages such as these; but to a large extent it results from a re-examination of various published accounts of phonation distinctions that I undertook in the course of teaching general phonetics. The most comprehensive of these accounts, and the one that I shall chiefly refer to, is Catford 1964, and the tape-recording in which he illustrates a number of the phonation types that he distinguishes in that article; but I have also drawn on Sweet 1877 (3rd edition, 1906), guided by Henderson 1971, Pike 1943, Heffner 1950, Abercrombie 1967, and Ladefoged 1971.