Cronjager cleared his throat with a snort. --Philip Marlowe, describing Captain Cronjager (whose "breath made a soft hissing sound in the quiet room" [p. 108]) (The Big Sleep, 1939:110)
Jerry, the throat-clear is a nonverbal indication of doubt. --George (Seinfeld, 1998)
Paralanguage. A nonverbal vibration of the vocal cords caused by a sudden, involuntary release of air pressure from the lungs.
Salesmanship. When you feel a "frog" in your throat: "Create pressure in your throat by holding your breath and trying to exhale at the same time. . . . . Then swallow once or twice" (Delmar 1984:40).
U.S. politics. At the November 26, 2000, Florida certification of that state's U.S. presidential election results, an official from the Florida Secretary of State's office, after citing Yogi Berra, stated, "It's not uh-over until it's over." The "uh-" hesitation seemed to indicate an unverbalized doubt.
RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. One signal of skepticism is a forced cough or clearing the throat (Delmar 1984:46). 2. "The [chimpanzee's] cough-threat (or soft bark), a grunt-like sound uttered through slightly open mouth, is only directed down the hierarchy, by higher-ranked to lower-ranked individuals. A call that indicates slight annoyance, it functions as a mild warning to prevent a subordinate from moving closer or from doing something of which the caller clearly disapproves (such as reaching for a piece of his food)" (Goodall 1986:130).
Illustration of musculature of vocal folds (copyright 1990 by Oxford University Press)