PNG images: Tongue

The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth of most vertebrates that manipulates food for mastication, and is used in the act of swallowing. It is of importance in the digestive system and is the primary organ of taste in the gustatory system. The tongue's upper surface (dorsum) is covered by taste buds housed in numerous lingual papillae. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly supplied with nerves and blood vessels. The tongue also serves as a natural means of cleaning the teeth. A major function of the tongue is the enabling of speech in humans and vocalization in other animals.

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The tongue is a muscular hydrostat that forms part of the floor of the oral cavity. The left and right sides of the tongue are separated by a vertical section of fibrous tissue known as the lingual septum. This division is along the length of the tongue save for the very back of the pharyngeal part and is visible as a groove called the median sulcus. The human tongue is divided into anterior and posterior parts by the terminal sulcus which is a V-shaped groove. The apex of the terminal sulcus is marked by a blind foramen, the foramen cecum, which is the remnant of median thyroid diverticulum in early embryonic development. The anterior oral part is the visible part situated at the front and makes up roughly two-thirds the length of the tongue. The posterior pharyngeal part is the part closest to the throat, roughly one-third of its length. These parts differ in terms of their embryological development and nerve supply.

The anterior tongue is, at its apex (or tip), thin and narrow, it is directed forward against the lingual surfaces of the lower incisor teeth. The posterior part is, at its root, directed backward, and connected with the hyoid bone by the hyoglossiand genioglossi muscles and the hyoglossal membrane, with the epiglottis by three glossoepiglottic folds of mucous membrane, with the soft palate by the glossopalatine arches, and with the pharynx by the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscle and the mucous membrane. It also forms the anterior wall of the oropharynx.

The average length of the human tongue from the oropharynx to the tip is 10 cm. The average weight of the human tongue from adult males is 70g and for adult females 60g.

In phonetics and phonology, a distinction is made between the tip of the tongue and the blade (the portion just behind the tip). Sounds made with the tongue tip are said to be apical, while those made with the tongue blade are said to be laminal.

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