"We speak in order to be heard and need to be heard in order to be understood"

(from R. Jakobson and L. Waugh, 1979, The Sound Shape of Language. Harvester Press. 96-7.)

One must remember, however, that it is not the position of the tongue which is the self-sufficient and decisive factor in speech production and in the formation of purposely discriminative speech sounds. We must maintain a thoroughly realistic attitude and correlate the role of the tongue with the other articulators and with the whole of the speech apparatus, as well as with the auditory and speech-discriminatory goal achieved by the total complex of the motor devices, both the surface and the deep ones such as the pharynx and the larynx. In particular, tongue-height-fronting, as Delattre insists, "has very little relation to the acoustic result, that is, to formant frequency-intensity-time display," whereas the place and narrowness of constriction and especially the shape and volume of cavities correlate best with the acoustic and perceptual result (1967:22f.). The study of speech sounds has often suffered from a kind of tongue-fetishism, supported perhaps by the metonymic closeness of the vocables for ‘anatomic tongue’ (langue, jazyk) and ‘tongue=language’ (langue, jazyk).

For the delineation of the articulatory employments of the tongue, the age-old attention to substitutions made in the pathological cases of tongueless speakers has provided quite instructive material. Many testimonies have been collected and cited to show that the amputation of a large portion of the tongue is not necessarily imcompatible with the power of speech: reports of the fifth century about African confessors who preserved the gift of speech although their tongues had allegedly been cut out; or, later, such publications as Belebar's description of 1630 "d'une bouche sans langue quelle parle"; or the Amsterdam surgical report of 1652 about a mutus loquens; or Jussien's memoir "sur la fille sans langue" of 1718; or a physiological account in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1742 of the case of Margaret Cutting, "who speaks distinctly though she has lost the apex and body of her tongue"; or various documents of the last century with titles like "The Tongue Not Essential to Speech" (Twistleton); or finally the May 12, 1944 New York Times communication that at the Annual Meeting of the Medical Sociey of the State of New York, the Medical Director of the National Hospital for Speech Disorders, Dr. James S. Green, demonstrated a seventy-seven-year-old patient whose tongue had been removed because of cancer but who nevertheless was able to speak distinctly and even to recite Lincoln's Gettysburg address and who thus, in the Director's opinion, "refuted the age-old idea that the tongue is the principal organ of speech" (cf. Heffner 1964:90).