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Welcome back to the next lesson in my Linguistics Lessons series. Last week, in lesson 2, we started looking at phonetics and what phonetics means. We talked about phoneticians and what they do, as well as the 3 areas of phonetics – articulatory, auditory, and acoustic. This week we’ll look at the first area: articulatory phonetics.

So articulatory phonetics investigates how speech sounds are produced as well as what type of speech sounds can be produced. Speech sounds are produced with specific anatomy that linguists call speech anatomy. The following constitutes the parts of speech anatomy:

  • diaphgragm
  • lungs
  • trachea
  • larynx
  • pharynx / pharyngeal cavity
  • glottis (which is part of the larynx cavity)
  • soft palate (also called the velum)
  • uvula (which is part of the velum)
  • hard palate
  • alveolar ridge
  • roof of the mouth (which includes the soft palate + hard palate + alveolar ridge)
  • tongue
  • teeth
  • lips
  • nasal cavity
  • jaw
  • oral cavity (which includes the lips + tongue + teeth + roof of mouth + floor of mouth)

Basically the speech anatomy consistutes everything that can be used to make a speech sound, starting from the diaphgram and lungs, out through the lips and mouth or nose (or both). A helpful diagram can be found here. Linguists call everything above the lungs and larynx the vocal tract. This is because the glottis, found in the larynx cavity, is what is generally known as the vocal chords. So air originates in the lungs, pushed out by the diaphragm, and passes through the glottis, and this creates sound. The rest of the speech anatomy, or the vocal tract, is what shapes this sound to create speech.

Now, besides speech anatomy, how speech sounds are produced also includes a concept called types of airstream mechanisms. Next week we’ll look at these different types and go into them in more detail. And we’ll look at the different types of speech sounds the following week.



  1. “MOOC: Linguistics 101 – Fundamentals”, The Virtual Linguistics Campus: http://linguistics.online.uni-marburg.de/
  2. Speech Anatomy Diagram, OpenStax CNX: http://cnx.org/resources/556dd7dec7e2a914999e7a8db4991f25cd6dc2f8/anatomy.png