Anatomy of the vocal tract

The following diagram shows the basic structure of the vocal tract that will be important in how sounds are made.

(The unlabelled picture was created by the Visual Human Viewer using data from the Visual Human Project.)

In addition to their normal names, many of the parts of the vocal tract have fancy names derived from Latin and Greek. The adjectives we use to describe sounds made with each part are usually based on the Latin/Greek name.

Normal name Fancy name Adjective
lips labia labial
teeth dental
alveolar ridge alveolar
(hard) palate palatal
soft palate velum velar
uvula uvular
upper throat pharynx pharyngeal
voicebox larynx laryngeal
tongue tip apex apical
tongue blade lamina laminal
tongue body dorsum (back) dorsal
tongue root radical

In phonetics, the terms velum, pharynx, larynx, and dorsum are used as often or more often than the simpler names.


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