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Speaking without a tongue
Bondage 3
pickamix wrote in little_details
Okay ... I've just spent the last day trying to find this information. I did find out half of what I need. And that was eating without a tongue. I also learned that it is possible to learn to speak without a tongue, but the people I read this about had some other body part donate to being their replacement tongue and they spent a lot of time with people teaching them how to speak again.

I lost track of the phrases I Googled and I'm afraid I didn't write them down.

In my dystopian fantasy future ... my character is being kept pretty much as a slave and they cut her tongue out to keep her from speaking spells. Now they aren't going to be kind and replace her tongue with anything else and they certainly wouldn't want anyone teaching her how to speak without a tongue.

My question is: Without anything replacing the tongue, how limited would her speech be? She's really smart, and I'm sure after 50 years she'd learn some speech. But what would her limits be?

Thanks in advance!!!!

*hugs and love*

EDA: This is what I've found on being able to speak without a tongue since I never stopped looking.

This was in a Reddit AMA with a man with 95% of his tongue removed.



Can you speak?

Yes, I can speak fairly well. I had speech therapy for a year and my speech improved a lot, but I still have a lot of trouble with certain sounds. The "G" as in goat, "K" sound and the "ee" sound are the worst. Interestingly, I find that the more intelligent the person, the easier they can understand me.

For the D, N, T and TH sounds I use a special technique that has really helped me. I press my upper front teeth against my lower lip to produce the start of the sound. Depending on the sound, I vary the pressure applied to my lip. T requires the most, then D and least is N.

For the K sound, I use my throat to pronounce it, much like the Germans produce very throaty sounds in their laguage.

Finally, the G in goat is impossible for me to say and I have never been able to produce it.


Thanks so much for any and all assistance!!!!

The tongue is used to shape sounds; try making normal speech sounds without moving your tongue at all, just keeping it at the bottom of your mouth; you'll find that an awful lot of sounds just aren't possible without it. It's possible to differentiate between vowel sounds without the tongue, but consonants like /k/, /t/, /d/ /n/, /g/, /ch/, /s/, /sh/, /l/ and so on require the tongue. So speech without them is going to be very very unclear; basically not really understandable.

ETA; it's not about being smart or not; speech sounds require the airway to be restricted in various ways, so it's about physical ability, not intelligence.

Edited at 2014-03-05 11:03 pm (UTC)

I get what you're saying ... but I was thinking that certain sounds could be manufactured a different way, by say using teeth and lips together.

An example of the opposite of what I'm talking about that I've experienced is: I took care of this boy with severe cerebral palsy. He couldn't speak at all. He was a lot like an adult sized one year old. However, he did like being kissed on the cheek goodnight and would respond to someone doing this by making kissing sounds by sucking his tongue against his teeth in short bursts.

Clever like that ... that was the only reason I mentioned smart. She might be clever enough to figure a few things out with some trial and error and intuitiveness.

Although you are likely very correct in that she would be very, if not impossible, to understand.

Thank you taking the time to come to my aid!!!!

*hugs and love*

The thing is, kissing noises don't need to be precise, so something that vaguely approximates a kissing sound will do fine; but to differentiate between, say, /t/ and /k/, you need precision. Basically, she's never going to be able to approximate speech such that a stranger could understand her. She may well be able to get by with people who know her very well, as they'll learn to accommodate to some degree, but she'll be better off using sign language for anything more complicated than basic needs.

Good point.

Thanks!!!

*hugs and love*

This is probably not the slightest bit helpful (since I suspect you really want your character to be verbal), but my reaction to the situation you described was that someone would be more likely to fall back on non-verbal communication such as sign language than try to regain verbal speaking skills when, as the other commenter noted, a tongue is so intrinsic to the sounds that make up most spoken languages.

There would be no one to teach her sign language and then there's the added craptasticness of having her right hand cut off. I'm so cruel. I'm not at all nice to her.

I do believe that's what she would do. She just still wouldn't be able to do any kind of spell. In this universe they depend quite a lot on speaking.

Thank you!!!

*hugs and love*

People don't actually need to be taught how to use sign language. Most cases of sign languages being "spontaneously" created involve large groups of people and 2-3 generations, but anyone can create a rudimentary sign language as a means of expressing themselves to the ones they interact with often. These are usually referred to as "home sign languages" or just "home signs".

Neat ... thanks!!!

*hugs and love*

I think you could really do some interesting things with this idea. Let's say magic is causing change in conformity to will. Since I'm pretty sure this is BtVS, magic requires specific formula to work: sacred circle, spoken words, possibly a physical action (putting Cordelia's necklace into the flask).

But, these formula are thing that have evolved over time. A good bit of the tension in your story could come from your witch learning what components are or aren't necessary and working out other ways to perform them, ways that won't be noticed. For example, maybe stirring a drink with a spoon, stirring clockwise, could raise a certain kind of energy that expands out and creates a sacred circle for her to work in.

Hmmm ... I could come up with things like that. Ponders ... ponders some more and will have to ponder even more.

Yes of course this is the Buffyverse, honey!!! What other verse do I do?

I can play with stuffs.

This is a continuation of that ficlet I just posted. Not that I should be doing that. I have a ton of other things I should be working on. Butterflies for instance. *hangs head in shame* I'm just not happy enough to work on Butterflies right now. Bad week and all. So this is what struck me at the moment. I want it done in just two more parts.

Thanks, honey love!!!!

*hugs and love*

It did sound a lot like your last ficlet so I had sort of figured it was a continuation of that one.

Don't be ashamed. Writing is writing. I'm working on a ficlet instead of my Giles as Big Bad story, but I figure I'm illing so I can chill with a short if I want to. ;-)

Loves you for understanding!!!!!!

*hugs and love*

You wou' 'eay be ab'e to ea' pa' a' i e' of po'e a'uae; i' be a ma'e' of eoi o wi'en o i a'uae. If you oue' 'one you oe oo ma'y oun.

Someone who was around your character a lot - and who was patient with the situation - would probably be able to learn to parse what she was saying, though with some difficulty. Past that, especially in a low-tech (and dystopian!) setting, any outcomes other than that or going with alternative communications methods just aren't going to be feasible. With a small handful of exceptions your entire consonant base would be out the window.

Edited at 2014-03-05 11:52 pm (UTC)

Thanks!!!!

*hugs and love*

Quite; and I'd say even the /y/ would be difficult, and the /n/ impossible.

I believe I found the answer to my own question ... I found the following in a Reddit AMA with a man with no tongue. Thought I'd share the knowledge.

Can you speak?

Yes, I can speak fairly well. I had speech therapy for a year and my speech improved a lot, but I still have a lot of trouble with certain sounds. The "G" as in goat, "K" sound and the "ee" sound are the worst. Interestingly, I find that the more intelligent the person, the easier they can understand me.

For the D, N, T and TH sounds I use a special technique that has really helped me. I press my upper front teeth against my lower lip to produce the start of the sound. Depending on the sound, I vary the pressure applied to my lip. T requires the most, then D and least is N.

For the K sound, I use my throat to pronounce it, much like the Germans produce very throaty sounds in their laguage.

Finally, the G in goat is impossible for me to say and I have never been able to produce it.

Do you have a link to this? I'd be interested to read, for my own fictional mental repository. :)

Very interesting. I think in a pinch she could maybe substitute a G sound with that K that this fellow describes. Yes, goat would come out sounding like khoat but I think a lot of people could figure it out with context what she's trying to say.

I placed a finger on my tongue and tried making the 'eee' sound without moving it at all. I can't do it, but maybe someone with speech therapy (or a LOT of practice) could. The closest I could make was a sort of high-pitched "uhhhh" sound.

I can't add anything, but thanks for the information!

No prob. I wasn't just going to find the answer and then not share. Glad I could help expand knowledge!!!

*hugs and love*

All her vowels sounds will be fine, and she should be able to manage nasal sounds with a bit of practice, and other sonorants (w, l, r) with more practice. It's the plosives (b/p, g/k, t/d) which will be hard and fricatives will vary - s, z and th will be very difficult, but sh, zh, j, ch, v, f should be doable in time.

Her speech is still likely to sound slurred and imprecise but anyone who spends time with her should learn to understand her with a bit of time and practise.


Thank you. Given what I've learned that sounds about right. I appreciate you expounding on things for me!!!

*hugs and love*

I don't see how it should be possible to pronounce the alveolar sound /l/ without having a tongue. The plosives /b/ and /p/ should be possible, though.

They could approximate it as a flap, though, more like the Japanese liquid consonant than the English.

On the basis of the sounds she can produce (and you could include non-oral sounds like finger-clicking and clapping, and mechanical things like rattles and whistles) it may still be possible for her to perform her own spells without using normal speech (quite a lot of ritual magic relies on musical invocation).

And then, in the modern world, there are text-to-speech converters...

One thing you might try, to get some idea of what she can and can't say: stick a spoon in your mouth, so that it's holding down your tongue. Try to speak.