Tongue movements in feeding and speech

Karen M. Hiiemae, Jeffrey B. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


The position of the tongue relative to the upper and lower jaws is regulated in part by the position of the hyoid bone, which, with the anterior and posterior suprahyoid muscles, controls the angulation and length of the floor of the mouth on which the tongue body 'rides'. The instantaneous shape of the tongue is controlled by the 'extrinsic muscles' acting in concert with the 'intrinsic' muscles. Recent anatomical research in non-human mammals has shown that the intrinsic muscles can best be regarded as a 'laminated segmental system' with tightly packed layers of the 'transverse', 'longitudinal', and 'vertical' muscle fibers. Each segment receives separate innervation from branches of the hypoglosssal nerve. These new anatomical findings are contributing to the development of functional models of the tongue, many based on increasingly refined finite element modeling techniques. They also begin to explain the observed behavior of the jaw-hyoid-tongue complex, or the hyomandibular 'kinetic chain', in feeding and consecutive speech. Similarly, major efforts, involving many imaging techniques (cinefluorography, ultrasound, electro-palatography, NMRI, and others), have examined the spatial and temporal relationships of the tongue surface in sound production. The feeding literature shows localized tongue-surface change as the process progresses. The speech literature shows extensive change in tongue shape between classes of vowels and consonants. Although there is a fundamental dichotomy between the referential framework and the methodological approach to studies of the orofacial complex in feeding and speech, it is clear that many of the shapes adopted by the tongue in speaking are seen in feeding. It is suggested that the range of shapes used in feeding is the matrix for both behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-429
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Reviews in Oral Biology and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003


  • Deglutition
  • Eating
  • Regional anatomy
  • Speech
  • Tongue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Dentistry(all)


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