What does the Tongue Do?

The tongue is one of the most amazing muscles and organs of the body. It is the only muscle we have that is attached at only one end. So it can move like no other muscles, and this important for some of the work it has to do.

When we speak and produce a whole variety of different sounds, the tongue assumes a variety of forms and positions to enable us to make the sounds. Just say the alphabet slowly and notice the different positions of the tongue for the different letters.

The mucous membrane that covers the tongue plays a part in the taking, holding, and grinding of food. In fact, the surface of the tongue is like a combination of graters, rolling pins, kneading boards, brushes, rakes, and points that act on food particles we take in.


The tongue is also one of the most delicate organs we have connected with the sense of touch. It is constantly telling us things, reporting on changes that take place in the mouth, and sending messages to the central nervous system about what we are eating and drinking.

Finally, of course, our taste buds are located on the tongue. The surface of the tongue is covered with little bumps that look like tiny warts. There are called “papillae”, and the taste buds are located in the walls of papillae.

Man has about 3,000 taste buds. A cow has about 35,000 and a whale has few or none. The number depends on the taste needs of the animal. Man’s buds are able to register three different sensations: sweet, salt, and bitter. They may also register sour, but this is possible a combination of the other three.

Different parts of the tongue are sensitive to different tastes. The back is more sensitive to bitter, the sides more sensitive to sour and salt, and the tip of the tongue picks up sweet tastes. 

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