Understanding Your Tongue’s Role In Speech

Understanding Your Tongue’s Role In Speech | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Your tongue is a muscular organ, made up of a set of muscles, that allow you to speak, swallow, and suck.

It’s also a sensory organ that enables you to taste and feel through touch.

The tongue has numerous abilities and characteristics.

Today we’ll be looking specifically at its role in speech.

When it comes to speech disorders, a vast majority of them involve your tongue.

Understanding exactly how your tongue works can help shed light on, and address, some of the issues you might be experiencing.

Here at Voz Speech Therapy, a speech therapist can help you better understand your tongue and work with you to address your speech disorder to get you back on track.

Keep reading to learn more about how your tongue contributes to speech and some common speech disorders that can affect it.

What Actually Is Your Tongue?

Your tongue is a very flexible group of muscles, whose root is anchored to the floor of your mouth.

The rest of it is free to move around your mouth in order to perform numerous tasks.

Your tongue has a complex anatomy.

The muscles in the tongue are oblong shaped and have a dense layer of connective tissue with a mucous membrane on the surface.

The underside of your tongue is connected to the floor of your mouth by a strip of tissue known as the lingual frenulum.

This tissue also connects the tongue to the lower jaw.

The tongue is connected to the hyoid bone, which is located in the upper part of your throat, by ligaments.

The same ligaments connect it to your voice box as well.

Let’s talk about the different sections of your tongue.

The root of your tongue is connected to the floor of your mouth and cannot move freely.

The back of your tongue, on its upper surface, is filled with sensory cells that give you the ability to touch and taste.

The sides and the tip of your tongue are very flexible and are used to perform a variety of complex movements.

As we mentioned, the surface of your tongue is covered by a mucous membrane, which causes papillae to appear.

Papillae are small bumps caused by bulging cells underneath the tongue’s surface and are responsible for a number of tasks.

Mechanical papillae keep the mucous membrane firmly secured as well as sense touch, including shape and texture.

Taste papillae contain sensory cells that allow you to taste what you’re ingesting.

The mucous membrane is also able to absorb some substances, such as some medications, allowing them to directly enter the bloodstream.

Underneath your tongue you have two ducts from your salivary glands.

Lastly, your tongue’s muscle fibers are arranged in three directions; from the side to the middle, front to back, and top to bottom.

This allows your tongue to move freely in many directions.

What Is Your Tongue’s Job?

Your tongue has a variety of jobs that enable you to perform many of your daily tasks and needs.

Your tongue helps you eat by allowing you to suck, mash up food, and begin the swallowing process.

The ability to suck is particularly essential for breastfeeding infants.

When you move your tongue to the back of your mouth, when it’s closed, it causes low pressure, which enables you to suck.

The tongue also helps move food around your mouth so that it can be chewed between your teeth.

Once you’ve chewed, your tongue helps to push that chewed food towards the back of your throat so that you can swallow.

As the tongue moves it also causes your salivary glands to release saliva.

This helps the chewed food, or bolus, slide down your esophagus more easily.

If your child experiences difficulty with any of this process, from chewing to swallowing, they may be experiencing pediatric dysphagia.

Another important job your tongue performs is giving you the ability to taste what you eat and drink.

Tasting is an important survival trait.

Your sense of taste allows you to differentiate between good and spoiled, poisonous, or bad food.

Taste receptors are found in the taste buds, which are located in the mucous membrane.

The tip of the tongue is highly sensitive to touch.

This helps you know what your food feels like in your mouth.

It also helps you feel around for any food that remains after you swallow.

What Is Your Tongue’s Role In Speaking?

By coordinating your tongue’s movement with your lips and teeth, you’re able to produce sounds, which can be made into speech.

The tongue is able to produce speech at a high rate due to its speed and agility.

It can produce over 90 words per minute.

Your tongue is essential for speaking by producing sounds.

This is possible due to its mobility and ability to make complex movements in relation to other parts of your mouth.

How Does Your Tongue Affect Speech?

Your tongue’s mobility and range of motion directly affect your speech.

Specific movements with your tongue create different types of sounds that can produce speech.

This also involves the tongue coordinating its movements with your lips and teeth.

For example, pronouncing the letter “k” involves narrowing your tongue in the back of your mouth.

Producing the letter “s” involves using the tip of your tongue as it moves backwards.

Pronouncing consonants or rolling the letter “r” are dependent on specific movements of your tongue.

Speech disorders, like speech sound disorders, can cause issues with your tongue’s mobility and with coordinating movements, which can affect your speech.

What Speech Disorders Affect Your Tongue?

The majority of speech disorders affect your tongue in some way.

While there are many speech disorders that can impact your tongue, we’re going to be looking at the most prominent ones.

Keep reading to learn more about common speech disorders that can affect your tongue.

1. Dysarthria

Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder, which results from damage to your nervous system.

It can cause muscle weakness in your face, throat, larynx, lips, and tongue.

Because the affected muscles are weakened, it can be hard to control and coordinate them to produce speech.

As we discussed, producing speech requires making specific movements using your tongue, lips, and teeth.

If you have dysarthria, you may have issues being able to move or control your tongue.

2. Tongue Tie

What is tongue tie?

Tongue tie is an orofacial myofunctional disorder that restricts the tongue’s range of motion.

This condition occurs in children and is present from birth.

The position and size of the frenulum can interfere with your tongue’s mobility.

Your frenulum connects the tip of your tongue to the floor of your mouth.

If the connection is too large, it can result in tongue tie.

Tongue tie can cause difficulty with swallowing, eating, tongue mobility, and with pronouncing certain sounds or letters.

Like any speech condition present from birth, early intervention is helpful to improve speech outcomes in your child.

3. Lisping

A lisp is a type of speech disorder that typically develops during childhood.

A lisp develops when your child attempts to pronounce sounds associated with specific letters and words, but does so incorrectly.

Often, a lisp goes away on its own.

However, if your child persistently mispronounces letters like “s” and “z”, it may be an indication that they are lisping.

There are four common types of lisps.

All of them involve your tongue in one way or another.

This can include protruding your tongue between your front teeth, pushing it up against the front teeth, or having it touch the roof of your mouth.

4. Tongue Thrust

Another speech disorder that can affect your tongue is tongue thrust.

Tongue thrust is a developmental issue that occurs in children.

It happens when your tongue thrusts or presses too far forward inside of your mouth.

Young children often do this when breast or bottle feeding, but they typically grow out of it.

If they don’t, it can cause the position of their tongue to push against their front teeth.

This can lead to difficulties speaking and pronouncing certain sounds.

5. Tongue Weakness After A Stroke

A stroke occurs when something blocks blood flow to your brain, not allowing it to get enough oxygen.

This can cause your brain cells to become damaged or die.

A stroke can lead to muscle weakness, such as in the tongue.

This can cause you to have diminished strength, mobility, and coordination in your tongue.

This can affect and can affect your ability to form speech and eat safely.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Recovering After A Stroke

What Actually Is Your Tongue? | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Fun Facts About Your Tongue

We’ve looked at what your tongue is, its various jobs, and how it can affect your speech.

Now let’s look at some fun facts about your tongue that you might not know of.

Did you know that your tongue is the same size as a typical Florida lizard at about four inches in length?

Did you know that you have between 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds?

Did you know that in order to taste your food your saliva has to first moisten it?

Also, because salt dissolves quickly in saliva, you generally taste anything salty first.

Did you know that the tongue of a blue whale weighs around 2.7 tons?

Did you know that the tongue is able to differentiate between five different tastes?

These include salty, bitter, sweet, savory, and sour.

Did you know that sticking your tongue out is a common greeting in Tibet?

There’s a lot more to your tongue than just saying things.

Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today

If you or your child are having difficulty speaking or producing certain sounds, it may be because of a speech disorder.

Speech therapy can help with your speech disorder, and help get your tongue more mobile and coordinated to produce speech.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884
- https://g.page/vozspeechtherapy

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.