Written by Paige Taylor –
Have you ever wondered just how many structures you use to produce a word? A sound even? Until becoming interested in the field of Speech-Language Therapy it never came to mind. I didn’t think about how my words were coming out, just if and what they were.
There are eight articulators we use and all of them are housed in the vocal tract. The vocal tract is 17cm long and has a right angle, where the articulators are. It is then divided into three subdivisions:
- Laryngopharynx : from the larynx/esophageal openings to the hyoid bone at the base of the tongue.
- Oropharynx: from laryngopharynx to velum and creates a barrier between oropharynx and the mouth, hence the prefix oro.
- Nasopharynx: soft palate to skull base and creates passage to the nasal cavity, hence the prefix naso.
The first articulator we’ll talk about are the lips. The lips help increase the length of the vocal tract and are used in producing bilabial and labiodental sounds. Bilabial sounds are /b/, /p/, /m/, and /w/. Labiodental sounds are /v/, and /f/.
Then we have the teeth. The teeth are used for digestion and producing speech. They are classified by occlusions. Occlusion I is normal, II is what we call an overbite, and III is what we refer to as an underbite. The teeth help articulate labiodental and interdental sounds. Interdental sounds are both voiced and voiceless “th” sounds.
Another articulator is the alveolar ridge. When I first heard this term I had no clue what the professor was referring to. The alveolar ridge is the hard ridge right behind your teeth. It is used in producing alveolar sounds. These sounds include /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, and /n/.
We then have the hard and soft palate. Both of these are located at the roof of your mouth. The one closest to your teeth is the hard palate and the one further back is the soft palate. The palates are used to articulate palatal sounds, “sh”, “zh”, /j/, and /r/.
Next is the velum. The velum separates oral and nasal cavities for the production of nasal and non-nasal sounds. The velum is used in producing velar sounds. The velar sounds are /k/, /g/, and /ng/. /ng/ is the sound you make when saying “ing.”
Our next to last articulator we’ll talk about is the tongue. The tongue is the most mobile of all the articulators. It alters the configuration of the vocal tract and has two types of muscles, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic deal with the tongues configuration/shape and extrinsic deals with the tongues position in the mouth.
Last, but not least, the glottis. The glottis is a small opening between the vocal cords and is not technically a structure. However, it is used in the production of the glottal sound /h/.
If you or a loved one is experiencing articulation errors, contact Christine Wilson today!