Active and passive articulators functions importance

The Organs/Articulators of Speech

The set of organs of the human body (and of other higher animals ) that allow the emission of articulated sound is known as the speech apparatus or vocal apparatus. Furthermore, in the exclusive case of the human being, it allows the physical composition of speech. In this article we will discuss the active and passive articulators.

The organs involved in the speech system, with the exception of the vocal cords, originally serve other functions as part of the respiratory or digestive system. Evolutionarily, they adapted to the emission of sounds later, as other social activities, such as communication, became necessary.

Without the speech apparatus, we could not generate articulate sounds. Therefore, much of human communication as we understand it would be impossible

Importance of articulators of speech

The speech apparatus is essential for the emission of articulated sounds and therefore for verbal language. This is one of the basic capabilities of our species that distinguishes us from animals.

However, animals also have a speech apparatus. For example, a dog is capable of barking, even barking in different ways depending on the occasion. In other words, it is also essential for animals to communicate, albeit in a rudimentary way.

What distinguishes us from them is the ability to acquire a language and train our own body to reproduce a series of specific sounds. For this, we have not only a particular complexity of our speech apparatus but also a brain capable of understanding and creating a sign

Organs that make up the speech articulators

The speech apparatus is made up of organs and ducts belonging to two systems:

Respiratory system.

It uses the lungs, bronchi, trachea, and larynx.


 It uses the teeth, lips, tongue, palate, glottis.

In addition, it uses specific organs of phonation such as the vocal cords

Parts that make up the speech articulators

The human speech apparatus is divided into two parts or subsystems:

Phonation system. The one in charge of generating the jet of air loaded with sound waves and that covers from the lungs to the vocal cords.

Articulation system. The person in charge of modulating sounds: cutting them off, modifying them, using the content of the mouth and lips.

Functions of speech articulators

The speech apparatus operates on the basis of different stages:

First, the lungs fill with air and, under the pressure of the diaphragm, empty themselves by pushing a jet of air out of the body through the trachea. The air thus propelled meets the vocal cords, which vibrate and fill the air with sound waves.

The voiced air reaches the larynx and pharynx, and instead of being exhaled through the nose, it is directed towards the mouth, where it will be modulated.

The jet of voiced air fills the mouth, and is released outwards after the organs of the mouth have been placed in the desired position to generate one or more specific sounds, either by opening or closing the oral cavity, positioning the tongue in the path of air or by bouncing it off different parts of the palate.

The articulatory organs

The following terms and their meanings should be memorized:

Active (mobile) articulators

Active articulators are the parts of the body that move to cause an obstruction (partial or total) to affect the movement of the air stream.

  • Tongue
  • Lower lip
  • Vocal folds (vocal cords)
  • The soft palate is also sometimes included as an active articulator, although it is always used in combination with another articulator.

Passive (immobile) articulators

Passive articulators are the parts of the body that the active articulators touch or approach to cause an obstruction (partial or total) to affect the movement of the air stream.

  • Superior lip
  • Teeth: the upper (incisor) teeth and the back of the upper teeth
  • Alveoli (or alveoli)
  • Postalveolar region: the place posterior to the alveoli and anterior to the arch of the hard palate
  • Hard palate
  • Anterior soft palate ( soft palate)
  • Uvula (posterior soft palate)
  • The posterior side of the pharynx


The main and proper organ of voice production is the larynx, which is also the passageway for the inspired air current. Its lateral faces are partially covered by the thyroid, which is cartilage that slides upwards when swallowing, speaking or singing, and can also deviate slightly laterally.

The thyroid is seen through the skin as a hard body that protrudes into the throat, which is commonly known as Adam’s apple. If you hold your throat, that is, your Adam’s apple, you are holding the thyroid cartilage, which is shaped like a book open to the back. Behind this cartilage are the vocal cords.

These vocal cords do not have the shape of the strings that we commonly observe in musical instruments such as the violin or the guitar, but are folds or lips in a number of four: two upper folds that are the false cords or ventricular bands, and two folds inferiors that are the true vocal cords. Between these, there is a cleft or empty space that limits them, which is called the glottis.

The two lower folds, which are the true vocal cords, are the ones that produce the first characteristics of the sound:

  • If these strings come together and vibrate, a “sonorous sound” is created, but if they do not vibrate it will be a “dull sound”.
  • The vibration causes a sound wave or fundamental tone and harmonics that, filtered (in the oral and nasal cavity) produce the timbre of the sound.
  • As the air passes towards the vocal cords with greater or lesser energy, the intensity of the voice is produced.

The duration is produced by a psychomotor impulse through the recurrent nerve towards the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs long enough for the desired duration.

we hope you understood the topic of Active and passive articulators

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