Is there a correlation between languages spoken and intricate movements of tongue? A comparative study of various movements of tongue among the three ethnic races of Malaysia

Satheesha B. Nayak, Mahfuzah Binti Awal, Chang Wei Han, Ganeshram Sivaram, Thimesha Vigneswaran, Tee Lian Choon, Ashwini P. Aithal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: Tongue is mainly used for taste, chewing and in speech. In the present study, we focused on the secondary function of the tongue as to how it is used in phonetic pronunciation and linguistics and how these factors affect tongue movements.Objective: To compare all possible movements of tongue among Malaysians belonging to three ethnic races and to find out if there is any link between languages spoken and ability to perform various tongue movements. Materials and Methods: A total of 450 undergraduate medical students participated in the study. The students were chosen from three different races i.e. Malays, Chinese and Indians (Malaysian Indians). Data was collected from the students through a semi-structured interview following which each student was asked to demonstrate various tongue movements like protrusion, retraction, flattening, rolling, twisting, folding or any other special movements. The data obtained was first segregated and analysed according to gender, race and types and dialects of languages spoken. Results: We found that most of the Malaysians were able to perform the basic movements of tongue like protrusion, flattening movements and very few were able to perform twisting and folding of the tongue. The ability to perform normal tongue movements and special movements like folding, twisting, rolling and others was higher among Indians when compared to Malay and Chinese. Conclusion: Languages spoken by Indians involve detailed tongue rollin and folding in pronouncing certain words and may be the reason as to why Indians are more versatile with tongue movements as compared to the other two races amongst Malaysians. It may be a possibility that languages spoken by a person serves as a variable that increases their ability to perform special tongue movements besides influenced by the genetic makeup of a person.

Original languageEnglish
Article number144
Pages (from-to)AC08-AC11
JournalJournal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2016


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)
  • Clinical Biochemistry

Cite this