Being unable to stick out one’s tongue or being “tongue tied” can have several unfortunate consequences. The tongue is supposed to be free to lick the lips, give an obnoxious “raspberry” or as the British say, “Be a little cheeky.” If the tip of the tongue is bound down to the floor of the mouth, commonly called “tongue tied” (properly called ankylo-glossia), many limitations in jaw development and speech patterns occur.
Today we will talk of the speech and social limitations in people who are tongue tied.
Pronouncing the letter “N” requires the placement of the tip of the tongue in the top of the mouth touching the tissue just behind the upper front teeth. Saying 99 or naughty and nice are relatively easy if the tip of the tongue is free to go to the “N” place in the mouth. (The proper name for the “N” place in the mouth is the incisive papilla.) However, if the tip of the tongue can’t go to the incisive papilla, the child who is learning to speak has to figure out a different way, exclusive to them, to mimmic the “N” sound. They may arch their tongue and struggle at first but eventually most can come up with an acceptable “N” sound.
The “T” sound is also difficult at first for tongue tied people. Saying “tied too tight” is a struggle if the tip of the tongue can’t go to the incisive papilla. After many struggles, a learning child can usually come up with the “T” sound as well though not quite as most people say it because the tongue cannot go to the right place. In the English language, the “N” sound and the “T” sound are the most difficult for tongue tied people.
What about foreign languages? In Spanish, one must roll the “R” to get the proper pronunciation of many words. It is impossible for a tongue tied person to roll the “R” sound.
Making an adequate replacement for the rolling “R” is very difficult if not impossible. In German the “R” is rolled in the back of the throat vibrating the uvula. This back of the throat rolling “R” can be duplicated in Spanish but doesn’t sound quite right. A tongue tied person will have difficulty in speaking and there will be some sounds they can never quite get if they are severely tongue tied.
What else does the tongue tied individual miss out on? As already stated, they cannot make an obnoxious “raspberry.” They can’t make obnoxious faces that require sticking out the tongue. They will never get their tongue stuck to a flagpole and they probably won’t be licking their plate clean either. If they are French, they cannot practice the “Big Screen” French kisses. The intimate, passionate French kiss is impossible for them as their tongue has to stay in their own mouth. Sometimes keeping one’s tongue to oneself is a good idea, be it avoiding disease or minding one’s verbal comments.
What about cleaning one’s teeth with the tongue? Have you ever had spinach stuck to your upper front teeth? What if your tongue could not lick the front of your upper front teeth because it was stuck to the floor of your mouth? It is tough for a young female to look coy if she cannot moisten her lips by licking them. Free movement of the tongue is important to speech, intimacy, and improving the appearance of the smile and lips. But the real detriment of being tongue tied will be presented next time when we discuss jaw development related to the tongue position.