The Organs of Speech (From the Neck Up)
Table of Contents
I. Sagittal Diagram
II. The Tongue, the Mouth-Top, & Consonants They Make
The tongue is divided into four parts: tip, blade, back, and root; the first three are used in speech production in French and English.
The top of the mouth is divided into four parts: the dental region (the alveolar ridge), the hard palate, the soft palate (the velum), and the uvula.
Not surprisingly (given the rules of our physical universe), corresponding parts of the tongue and the top of the mouth pair up, as it were, in the production of speech.
A. Apico-dental: Tip of Tongue & Upper Teeth
The tip of the tongue touches right behind the upper teeth1 to make
[t, d, s, z, n, l, r 2 ]
B. Lamino-Palatal: Blade of Tongue & Palate
The blade of the tongue works together with the very beginning of the hard palate, just as you are coming off the alveolar ridge; it is therefore called prepalatal or alveolar-palatal. The sounds produced:
[ʃ, ʒ, ʧ, ʤ, ɲ, ʎ]
C. Dorso-Velar: Back of Tongue and Velum
The back of the tongue and and the soft palate or velum (the part of the roof of the mouth where the cartilage stops) produce:
[k, g, ŋ, χ (?) ]
D. Dorso(?)-Uvular(?): Back of the Tongue and the Uvula
The back of the tongue 3 and the uvula together produce (putatively) the arch-typical French r, called le r grasseyeux.
[χ (unvoiced), ʁ (voiced)]
But are these sounds really uvular? Il est permis d’en douter. See The French “r”.
III. English-French Glossary to the Diagram
|English Term||French Term||Gender|
|nasal cavity (-ies) 4||cavités (OU fosses) nasales||f., f.|
|buccal (OR oral OR mouth) cavity||cavité buccale OU orale||f.|
|alveolar ridge 6||crête alvéolaire, alvéoles||f., m.|
|roof of the mouth OR palate||palais||m.|
|1) hard palate 7||palais dur||m.|
|2) soft palate OR velum 8||palais mou OU voile||m., m.|
|uvula 9||luette OU uvule||f., f.|
|1) tip||apex OU pointe||m., f.|
|2) blade OR front||lame||f.|
|larynx (voice box)||larynx||m.|
|vocal cords OR folds||cordes vocales OU plis vocaux||f., m.|
- Either on the teeth themselves, or their gums, or the hard ridge (called “the alveolar ridge”) behind them.↩
- This “r” is the trilled “r” [r], not the typical French “r” [ʁ] nor the typical American “r” [ɹ].↩
- Is it the BACK of the tongue, or the ROOT of the tongue, that connects with the uvula to make this sound?↩
- The nasal cavities are used, with the velum lowered, for nasal vowels & consonants.↩
- Only the gums behind the teeth are used for making speech sounds.↩
- The alveolar ridge is after the gums and before the palate. Alveolus is Latin for “a small cavity”; here, the individual holes for each tooth.↩
- The hard palate is between the alveolar ridge and the velum.↩
- The velum (Latin for “veil, cloth, covering, awning”) is lowered to allow air to pass through the nose and (thus) to produce nasal vowels and consonants.↩
- The uvula (Latin for “little grape”) a projection at the edge of the soft palate.↩
- The part of the throat behind the nasal and buccal cavities (= the mouth). Serves as passage-way for the the digestive & the respiratory systems.↩
- The epiglottis doesn’t precisely help you with speech, except for keeping you alive while you are swallowing.↩
- The glottis is the hole in between the vocal cords when they are relaxed.↩
Sulaiman Salisu says
Dinesh S Hassan says
Concise and practical.
Olajide Cecilia Olajumoke says
Opeoluwa Elizabeth says
Thank you for your advice 😊❤️😘
I love the diagram
Mad Beppo says
It did not originate with me. I should like to tell where I got it, but I have lost that information, apparently irretrievably. (However, the commentary following is all mine.)
Ngozika Ateli says
Your sense of clarity is superb and concise as well.