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The Pharynx & Larynx: Definition & Terms

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  • 0:01 The Passage of Air
  • 0:36 The Pharynx & its Parts
  • 2:12 The Larynx & Epiglottis
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will define the pharynx (nasopharynx, oropharynx, and laryngopharynx), as well as the larynx and epiglottis, their combining forms, and their major functions.

The Passage of Air

Take a deep breath through your nose. Where does this air, the air you just breathed in, go? Into the lungs, right? Kind of sort of...in the end it does, but not right away.

Just like food doesn't go directly from the mouth and into the stomach but passes through the esophagus first, air doesn't go into the lungs directly from the nose. It actually passes by several different areas and structures before reaching the lungs themselves.

This lesson is going to discuss many of these, including the pharynx, larynx, and the epiglottis.

The Pharynx and its Parts

As you take that deep satisfying breath, air enters the nose and then the pharynx, commonly just called the throat. The important combining form that represents the pharynx is 'pharyng/o,' as in pharyngitis, the inflammation of the pharynx, where the suffix '-itis' indicates inflammation of something.

The pharynx is itself divided into three sections:

The first division which air enters into is called the nasopharynx, where 'naso-' implies the nose. So, it should be very easy to remember that the nasopharynx is located posterior to, or behind, the nasal cavity. The nasopharynx functions to allow for the passage of inhaled and exhaled gases between the nasal cavity and the rest of the respiratory system.

As the nasopharynx descends, it opens into the next section of the pharynx, the oropharynx. 'Or/o' means mouth. This is the part of the pharynx you see when you say 'ah' in front of the mirror and look at the very back of your mouth.

The oropharynx also functions in the passage of gases, but it also allows for food to travel into the next and last part of the pharynx, the laryngopharynx, where 'laryng/o' stands for the larynx, something we'll get to shortly.

Like the oropharynx, the laryngopharynx is used by both the respiratory and digestive systems. From here, food and liquids will go into the esophagus and then into the stomach, and air will go into the trachea and later into the lungs.

The Larynx and Epiglottis

Like I recently said, the combining form of 'laryng/o' pertains to the larynx, commonly called the voice box.

It is situated right between the pharynx (the throat) and the trachea (the windpipe). If you can feel your Adam's apple, that's where the larynx is at. The Adam's apple is made up of the thyroid cartilage of the larynx.

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