Daily Archives: June 1, 2010

Speech Class: Anatomy of Speech


Here’s a handy re-cap of something you probably were introduced to during your actor training, but which may have since become a little fuzzy in your mind: the anatomy involved in speaking.

It’s an excellent idea to familiarize yourself with the following terms before your initial session with a dialect coach, as it will improve communication between the two of you and thereby save you time (and money!)

Here are the parts of the body involved in creating speech:

NOTE: For the best experience, open a second window and view this chart created by the University of Iowa while you peruse the terms on the following list. You can use your mouse to highlight specific areas of the chart as well as bring up additional anatomical information.  I have included here for your ease of use pronunciation keys for the Latin terminology. You will notice a ‘spelling approximation’ key, an IPA transcription, as well as a link you can follow to actually hear the word accurately pronounced. Just click on the IPA transcription for audio.

The Labia –pronounced [ ˈleɪˌbɨ.ə] LAY-bee-yuh (a.k.a. The Lips)

The Teeth

The Mandible (a.k.a. The Jaw)

The Tongue (The Tip, Blade, Front, Back, Root)

The Alveolor Ridge –pronounced [ˌælˈviəlɚ rɪdʒ] al-VEEuh-ler RIJ (a.k.a. The Gum Ridge)

The Hard Palate

Oral Cavity (a.k.a. The Mouth)

Nasal Cavity

The Velum –pronounced [ˈviːləm] VEE-luhm (a.k.a. The Soft Palate)

The  Uvula –pronounced [ˈjuːvˌjʊlə] YOO-vyoo-luh

The Pharynx –pronounced [ˈfæ.rɪŋks] FAH-rinks–short ‘A’ in ‘FAH’

The Epiglottis–pronounced [ˌɛ.pʰə.ˈɡlɑ.t̬əs] eh-puh-GLAH-tus

The Vocal Folds (Traditionally these have been called vocal cords, but in recent years the more accurate term ‘vocal folds’ has been widely adopted. These paired muscles vibrate and initiate sound waves that are then modified and amplified by the body parts listed above.)

The Lungs (Which upon exhaling, allow the vocal folds to vibrate if you so choose. The vocal folds cannot produce sound without air flowing through them.)

I hope you enjoy brushing up on your anatomical terminology! If you find that this endeavor sparks questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them here in the comments section, at my email address [Dialect411 (at) gmail (dot) com] or on Twitter @Dialect411. I’ll be happy to help you find answers!