The Oral Alphabet

Recently, a Japanese artist has made a rendition of the entire alphabet in white gauze statues. The mouths show the position of the tongue and mouth that they have to take up in order to make the letter. The artist said he was inspired by chat rooms, and how we use “D” to indicate a full smile. The artist, Takayuki Ogawa, has decided to call his piece the “Oral:phabet”, and the installation is made of white ceramic mounted on a wooden framework, and can be viewed here.  


While linguists will likely argue the the precise mouth positions, this piece does bring attention to the fact that speech, so often thought of as a mental and entirely theoretical thing, is something that is deeply rooted in the physical world. The teeth and their position can affect where and how you can put your tongue, and this can affect the way you talk and how you pronounce things. Which, surprisingly, brings us back to orthodontics.


Speech and teeth

Your tongue twists and turns to make all of the sounds it needs to make in order to communicate with your peers. Sometimes it needs to touch the palate, the roof of your mouth, or your teeth in order to apply enough pressure to be able to make the necessary sound. If this is not possible, then you cannot make the sound. So the artist actually touched on a very important point -orthodontics is not just for aesthetics, it serves functional purposes as well.

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