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Articulate: Baby Got Back

Back of the tongue that is.

The tongue is a large and dynamic muscle which is capable of a lovely array of sounds. Interesting for me is how we as American English speakers neglect some of the juicy variations made with the back of the tongue.

We sometimes create a shorthand of making all of these sounds blend into eachother or worse, let them all sound like /ʌ/ as in the word but. So that I’d like you to explore the back of the room. Shifting from the most open space in the back on /ɑ/ as in father or awesome, through /ʌ/ and /ɔ/ as in but and ought, to /o/ as in obey, and finally to the most closed space /u/ as in soup or fruit. There are other variants in the back of the mouth. Take a minute to play and see how many sounds you can produce.

Pro tip: Try to keep the tip of the tongue close to the bottom teeth to try and isolate the movement in the back of the mouth.

Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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