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A snip of the tongue and English is yours!
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Joined: 20 Mar 2003

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm a speech-language pathologist. Maybe I can answer some questions.

There are some cases in which cutting the lingual frenum might possibly be a good idea. For instance, if the tongue were so immobile that it couldn't clear away food residue from the pocket between the teeth and the cheek, that would be a serious oral health concern. And yes, if the tongue were that immobile then pronunciation would likely be mildly affected as well. Here's a good test to see what the range of motion of a tongue is:

-stick out your tongue and try to touch your nose with it. Your tongue will probably not reach all the way to your nose, but it should go up a bit past your upper lip.

-stick out your tongue and try to touch your chin. Your tongue will probably go 1/3 to 2/3 of the way down to your chin.

-stick out your tongue to the right and then to the left. Your tongue should go at least a centimeter or two past the edge of your lips.

-open your mouth wide enough to see inside clearly. Raise the tip of your tongue up to touch just behind your upper teeth, then smoothly move the tip of your tongue backwards along the roof of your mouth.

The last one is occasionally tricky even for normal kindergarten kids, but adults should have no problem. If a child can do all of these things, then there is pretty much no chance that a short lingual frenum could be causing a speech problem.

The positives about the surgery are that it's relatively simple, with complications unlikely. In other words, it probably won't do much damage even in a worst case scenario.

The negatives are that it can cause unnecessary pain, and can be a waste of money. It can also set up unrealistic expectations of sudden pronunciation changes.

I agree with the poster who said an investment in a good phonics program would likely have a much better effect.

Oh, and BTW, the tongue does have to move to make the /r/ sound in Standard American English. You can see the movement if you open your mouth wide, keep your jaw steady, look in a mirror, and say "are." (The movement is somewhat different if you are making an /r/ sound at the beginning of a word, but similar enough that saying the easily viewable word "are" will give you an idea of what it's like.)

Also, to Mokpochica, when you next talk with Korean parents who think speech disorders in English is evidence of how impossible English is, don't let them forget that speech disorders exist in Korean as well. Among children growing up to be native American English speakers, some of the sounds most likely to give difficulty are /s, z, r, l, th, sh, ch, g, k/, roughly in that order. Among children growing up to be native Korean speakers, you don't have trouble with /z, th/ of course (they don't exist in Korean), but other than that pretty much the same sounds are difficult (/r, l/ in Korean being represented as a flap /r/ and as a long duration /l/). They just have fewer speech-language pathologists in Korea to serve the population, so speech therapy isn't necessarily a familiar concept to Koreans. Just because Korean's can't always get speech therapy does not mean there is any less need for it in Korea than in English speaking countries.

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Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Sun Jun 08, 2003 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting TH. I figured that there must be some speech problems in Korea too, but no one I've met seems to admit to them.
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