Types and Usage

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.

Function:

1. Taste:

Chemicals that stimulate taste receptor cells are known as tastants. Once a tastant is dissolved in saliva, it can make contact with the plasma membrane of the gustatory hairs, which are the sites of taste transduction.

The tongue is equipped with many taste buds on its dorsal surface, and each taste bud is equipped with taste receptor cells that can sense particular classes of tastes. Distinct types of taste receptor cells respectively detect substances that are sweet, bitter, salty, sour, spicy, or taste of umami. Umami receptor cells are the least understood and accordingly are the type most intensively under research.

2. Mastication:

The tongue is an important accessory organ in the digestive system. The tongue is used for crushing food against the hard palate, during mastication and manipulation of food for softening prior to swallowing. The epithelium on the tongue’s upper, or dorsal surface is keratinised. Consequently, the tongue can grind against the hard palate without being itself damaged or irritated.

3. Speech:

The intrinsic muscles of the tongue enable the shaping of the tongue which facilitates speech.

4. Intimacy:

The tongue plays a role in physical intimacy and sexuality. The tongue is part of the erogenous zone of the mouth and can be used in intimate contact, as in the French kiss and in oral sex.

Society and Culture:

The phrase mother tongue is used as a child’s first language. Many languages have the same word for “tongue” and “language”.

A common temporary failure in word retrieval from memory is referred to as the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. The expression tongue in cheek refers to a statement that is not to be taken entirely seriously – something said or done with subtle ironic or sarcastic humour. A tongue twister is a phrase made specifically to be very difficult to pronounce. Aside from being a medical condition, “tongue-tied” means being unable to say what you want due to confusion or restriction. The phrase “cat got your tongue” refers to when a person is speechless. To “bite one’s tongue” is a phrase which describes holding back an opinion to avoid causing offence. A “slip of the tongue” refers to an unintentional utterance, such as a Freudian slip. The “gift of tongues” refers to when one is uncommonly gifted to be able to speak in a foreign language, often as a type of spiritual gift. Speaking in tongues is a common phrase used to describe glossolalia, which is to make smooth, language-resembling sounds that is no true spoken language itself. A deceptive person is said to have a forked tongue, and a smooth-talking person said to have a silver tongue.

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