Regional approach

One means of categorizing the study of anatomy is to take a so-called regional approach. This means dividing the subject into regions of the body, e.g.

  • upper limbs and back
  • head and neck
  • thorax
  • abdomen
  • pelvis
  • lower limbs

An alternative method is the systemic approach. This considers each system individually, e.g. respiratory system, vascular system, nervous system. However, we will adopt a predominantly regional approach here.

Of necessity, the anatomy critical to understanding human communication as we define it on this website is largely restricted to the head and neck, and the thorax. Specifically, five anatomical structures/mechanisms are considered:

Brain

The brain is divided into three parts: cerebrum, cerebellum and brain stem. The cerebrum is responsible for reasoning, emotion, memory, motor movements, and speech and language skills. The cerebellum co-ordinates motor movements and the brain stem controls automatic functions such as breathing. [read more]

Larynx

The larynx is constructed of three main cartilages: thyroid cartilage, cricoid cartilage, and arytenoid cartilages. The true vocal cords (vocal folds) can be abducted, allowing air to flow freely through the glottis. They can be adducted during phonation to create voiced speech sounds. Pitch is varied through alteration in the tension of the vocal cords. The false vocal cords do not usually play a part in phonation. [read more]

Vocal tract

The vocal tract consists of the air passages above the larynx. There are two main cavities: the nasal cavity and the oral cavity. They are separated by the hard palate and the soft palate. The shape of nasal cavity cannot be altered. In contrast, the tongue is a flexible muscle that can alter the configuration of the oral cavity. [read more]

Breathing mechanism

Humans breathe by flattening and contracting the diagram for inhalation and relaxing the diaphragm for exhalation. Intercostal muscles assist breathing. [read more]

Ear

The ear consists of three parts: outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear directs sound waves into the middle ear. The ossicles of the middle ear amplify the vibration of the sound waves. The inner ear converts vibrations into electrical signals which are transmitted along the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex of the brain. [read more]

Terminology

The words used to describe anatomical features and their positions are quite specific and may differ from their everyday use. Below is a brief glossary of words that should assist understanding of the articles on this website.

Glossary

anterior/anteriorly:

located before a part of, or towards the front of, a structure

posterior/posteriorly:

located behind a part of, or toward the rear of, a structure

inferior/inferiorly:

located below a part of, or beneath, a structure

superior/superiorly:

located above a part of, or above, a structure

aspect:

a side or surface facing in a particular direction