from From here, reproduced in case it disappears.


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.


  • Tip, front edge, blade, middle, back of tongue
    • Median fibrous septum
    • Eight muscles of the tongue, divided into intrinsic & extrinsic muscles
  • Tip:
    • the very point of tongue
  • Front edge:
    • awareness is essential for delicate control of alveolar plosives, such as /t, d/
  • Blade:
    • that part that is free to flap up and down, the front third
  • Middle:
    • just behind the blade
  • Back:
    • the surface of the tongue begins to change here; awareness is important for certain back vowels
  • Median Fibrous Septum: Medianibrous Septum:
    • a divider that runs down the centre of the tongue serves as an attachment for the transverse muscles.

Intrinsic Muscles of the Tongue:

  • Inferior and Superior Longitudinal Muscle:
    • go the length of the tongue
    • moves tip up and down
  • Transverse Muscle:
    • go across the tongue
    • narrows and lengthens the tongue
  • Vertical Muscle:
    • go up and down in the tongue
    • flattens and depresses the tongue

Extrinsic Muscles:

The "roots" of our tongues are very big. 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
    • sticks out the tongue
    • presses against the teeth or alveolar ridge
    • pulls the tongue tip back
    • troughs the tongue
  • Styloglossus: styloid process behind ear to tongue
    • pulls the tongue upward and back
  • Palatoglossus: palate to tongue
    • pulls the tongue back to grove the tongue
  • Hyoglossus:hyoid bone to tongue
    • retracts or depresses the tongue
    • elevates the hyoid bone
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