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 voice & speech source

WWW York

voice & speech: journey of the voice: articulation: tongue


The tongue is the most important articulator of speech. This muscle is extremely strong, as it must move food around in our mouths as we chew. Its other biological function is to push the food into a bolus (I prefer the less scientific term "glob"), and then push it down the oesophagus to our stomach. Try swallowing to feel the strength of your tongue pushing down and back. Speech, on the other hand, requires a very different approach. For the sound to resonate effectively, the less tongue root tension (i.e. tension in the extrinsic muscles of the tongue), the better. For speech you want to relax the tongue up and forward, the opposite of swallowing. The quick movements of the tongue, necessary for rapid delivery of tongue twisters for example, require very delicate control of the action of the tongue. This control is often best regulated in concert with the ear, listening to the sounds created by the voice when the tongue is in one position over another. Sensitivity is the key to learning to appreciate the range of capabilities the tongue possesses.



Front edge:




the surface of the tongue begins to change here; awareness is important for certain back vowels

Median Fibrous Septum: Medianibrous Septum:

Intrinsic Muscles of the Tongue:

The image at left features the important muscles of the body of the tongue. The transverse muscle fibers are hard to see because they can only be seen in cross-section as little dots running under the longitudinal muscles. Also visible in this image is the genioglossus, which joins the tongue to the chin and the geniohyoid, which joins the chin and hyoid bone.


Inferior and Superior Longitudinal Muscle:

Transverse Muscle:

Vertical Muscle:

Extrinsic Muscles:

Extrinsic muscles of the tongueThis side view of the extrinsic muscles gives and excellent idea of how big the "roots" of our tongues are. You can feel these muscles by pressing a fingertip under your chin, up towards the tongue. Those muscles should be soft and gooey, especially during phonation.

Genioglossus: chin to tongue

Styloglossus: styloid process behind ear to tongue

Palatoglossus: palate to tongue

Hyoglossus:hyoid bone to tongue


Back to Articulation
Back to The Journey of the Voice


More on Articulation:

Master Muscle List
Loyola University has a great online learning area on anatomy. This link puts you in the Master Muscle List by Region, where you should select "head and neck". This will give you a huge long list of all the muscles in the head and neck which you can use to learn more about these structures. posted June 5, 98.