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In this lesson, you will be introduced to the major anatomical components of the speech system for human language.

Major Terms

• trachea
• larynx
• glottis
• pharynx
• vocal tract

Subglottal System

Sound in human language is produced by the regulation of airflow from the lungs through the throat, nose, and mouth. This airflow isaltered in various ways by different aspects of this speech system. The first major segment of the speech system is the subglottal system. This subglottal system comprises the lungs, diaphragm and trachea.
The lungs are basically a pair of balloon-like sacs that inflate or deflate by the action of the diaphragm, a muscle just under the lungs, attached to them. When the diaphragm is lowered, thelungs inflate, and when the diaphragm is raised, air is pressed out of the lungs, allowing them to deflate.
When this air is pressed out of the lungs, air travels up the trachea, or windpipe, to the larynx, the next major segment of the speech system.

The Larynx

The larynx is a mass of cartilage at the top of the trachea. It is commonly called the voicebox.

The larynx contains folds ofmuscle called the vocal folds (sometimes called vocal cords). These vocal folds are connected to the larynx by the arytenoid cartilage at the front, but the other ends are left free. The opening between the vocal folds is known as the glottis. These folds can be relaxed, letting air flow freely through the glottis, or tensed, so that the air vibrates as it passes through the glottis.
Sounds thatare produced with relaxed vocal folds are known as voiceless sounds, and sounds that are produced with tensed vocal folds are known as voiced sounds. If the folds are only partially closed, a whispered sound is produced.

Voiceless Whisper Voiced

Above the Larynx

The area above the larynx consists of three main areas: the pharynx, the nasal cavity, and the oralcavity. The pharynx consists of the area above the larynx and below the uvula. The oral cavity is the area from the back of the throat to the mouth. The major parts of the oral cavity that are used in speech production are the uvula, the velum, the tongue, the hard palate, the alveolar ridge, the teeth, and the lips. The uvula is that fleshy blob that hangs down in the back of the throat. The velum isthe soft palate, and the alveolar ridge is a mass of hard cartilage behind the teeth.
The following graphic shows these major parts of the area, which is also known as the supraglottal system


In summary, this lesson has outlined the major parts of the anatomy that relate to speech production. These parts are the following:
• Subglottal system, including lungs and trachea• Larynx, including the vocal folds and glottis
• Supraglottal system, including the oral cavity, nasal cavity, and pharynx
In the next lesson, you will learn how consonants are classified in terms of the use of these parts of the speech system.


In this lesson, the goals are to begin to learn how speech sounds are classified in terms of their use of the speech system.Major Terms

• voicing
• place of articulation
o bilabial
o labiodental
o interdental
o dental
o alveolar
o alveopalatal
o palatal
o velar
o uvular
o pharyngeal
o glottal


In the last lesson, you were introduced to the following states of the glottis: voiceless andvoiced. These states are determined by the action of the vocal folds in the larynx. If the vocal folds are held apart, the glottis is in a voiceless state, while if the vocal folds are held together, and allowed to vibrate, the glottis is in a voiced state.
Certain consonants in human language are distinguished by which state is active during production of the sound. For example, pronounce the...
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