What Are Speech Organs?

Geisha A. Legazpi

There are many different forms of communication, although people usually communicate with one another through the use of speech. Speech organs are body structures that work together so that people can communicate through spoken language. Also called speech articulators, these organs are necessary in the production of voice, or the sound produced only by humans to tell one another how they think or feel. They may be categorized based on whether they are active or passive.

Speech organs include the uvula, tongue, and teeth.
Speech organs include the uvula, tongue, and teeth.

Unlike most animals that have the ability to communicate through nonverbal means, most humans produce distinct words to communicate with one another. Speech is delivered with much speed; typically, a person who wants to speak does not need to think too much about what to say. When a person speaks, his or her thoughts are immediately converted into a spoken form as soon as the speech organs receive a signal or instruction from the brain. Therefore, speech occurs when a person’s brain and speech organs work together, although the organs of the respiratory system also play an important role in this process, as the vocal cords need air to vibrate and produce sound.

Smoking may affect the speech organs.
Smoking may affect the speech organs.

A speech organ is active if it moves as sound is produced, whereas it is passive if there is no movement. Together with the lips, tongue, and teeth, these organs also include the alveolar ridge, uvula, palate, and glottis. Of these speech articulators, only the lower lip, tongue, and glottis are active. The mechanism of sound or voice production starts as air that is taken in flows through the glottis, resulting in the vibration of the vocal cords. This vibration pushes the air to flow out through the glottis to produce vibration in the vocal tract, producing sound.

The tongue is used for pronouncing both vowels and consonants.
The tongue is used for pronouncing both vowels and consonants.

Articulatory phonetics deals with how the speech organs work together. For instance, different sounds can be produced by the interaction between the lips and the teeth. Vowels are produced when the shape of the mouth changes through the coordination between the upper and lower lips, although the position of the tongue is also important. Consonants are produced by the coordination among the tongue, teeth, and palate.

Vowels are created when the shape of the mouth changes through the coordination with the upper and lower lips.
Vowels are created when the shape of the mouth changes through the coordination with the upper and lower lips.

Speech organs are also prone to stress, called vocal loading, due to several factors. Continued use of voice, speaking loudly for a long time, and speaking with an unusual pitch of the voice may cause strain on the speech organs. Smoking and dehydration may cause dryness in the throat area, affecting the quality of the voice. Vocal loading may be prevented by minimizing the use of voice, speaking with normal voice volume and pitch, avoiding smoking, and drinking enough fluids.

The upper lip and lower lip work in tandem to help people articulate speech.
The upper lip and lower lip work in tandem to help people articulate speech.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments

Animandel

It's amazing how the body makes what should be a complicated process occur so naturally and without much thought.

Sporkasia

When I get dehydrated, which happens sometimes when I workout in the sun and sweat a lot, my voice changes drastically. When I speak it sounds like the words are coming from a long ways off, or like they are muffled. It's kind of hard to describe, but they sound hollow.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register: