Speech anatomy

A summary of the anatomy used in the production of speech is given below. Click on the links to watch a short video of how each sound is produced.

Lips

Lips

  • Both lips close completely, for sounds such as /p/, /b/, and /m/.
  • The lower lips touch or approach the upper teeth, for sounds such as /f/ and /v/.
  • The lips are rounded, for sounds such as /u/, /o/, and /w/.

Sounds that are made with the lips are called labial sounds.

Teeth

Teeth

Sounds that are made with the teeth are called dental sounds and include: /ɵ/ and /ð/.

Alveolar Ridge

Alveolar Ridge

A short distance behind the upper teeth there is a change in the angle of the roof of the mouth called the alveolar ridge.

Sounds which involve the area between the upper teeth and the alveolar ridge are called alveolars. These include: /d/, /t/, /s/, /z/, /n/ and /l/.

Hard Palate

Hard Palate

The hard palate is the hard part of the roof of the mouth.

Sounds that are made with the hard palate are called palatal sounds, for example /j/.

Soft Palate

Soft Palate (velum)

The soft palate or velum is the soft portion of the roof of the mouth, lying behind the hard palate. The velum performs two important roles in speech:

  1. The tongue body touches the velum in order to make the sounds /k/, /g/, and /ŋ/.
  2. Normally during speech, the velum is in its raised position, blocking off airflow through the nose. But during some sounds (the nasal sounds, such as /m/, /n/, and /ŋ/) it lowers and allows air to flow through the nose.

Sounds that are made with the velum are called velar sounds.

Pharynx

Pharynx

The pharynx is a resonating cavity or chamber lying above the larynx and posterior to the oral cavity.

Vocal Folds

Vocal folds

The vocal folds, also known commonly as vocal cords, are composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx. They vibrate, modulating the flow of air being expelled from the lungs during phonation.

Sounds that are made with the vibrating vocal folds are called voiced sounds.

Voiced Voiced Unvoiced Unvoiced
Tongue Tip

Tongue Tip (apex)

The tip of the tongue is thin and narrow, it is directed forward against the lingual surfaces of the upper incisor teeth.

Sounds that are made with the tongue tip are called apical sounds.

Tongue Blade

Tongue Blade

The blade is the part of the tongue lying just below the upper alveolar ridge

Sounds which are made with the tongue blade are called laminal sounds.

Tongue Back

Tongue Back

The tongue back is that part of the tongue lying below the soft palate.

Sounds that are made with the tongue back are called dorsal sounds.