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The Intrinsic and Extrinsic Muscles of the Tongue

Joanna Tatomir, Dan Washmuth
  • Author
    Joanna Tatomir

    Joanna holds a PhD in Biology from the University of Michigan and is currently working towards a degree in Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. She has taught a combination of ESL and STEM courses to secondary and university students.

  • Instructor
    Dan Washmuth

    Dan has taught college Nutrition and Anatomy courses for over 5 years. He has a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from Furman University and a M.S. in Dietetics & Nutrition from Florida International University. He is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C)

Learn about the two types of tongue muscles — intrinsic muscles of the tongue and extrinsic muscles of the tongue. Understand if the tongue is a muscle or an organ. Updated: 09/28/2021

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Tongue Muscles

Many people think of the tongue in terms of eating and tasting different foods. However, the tongue also represents an essential muscle in the mouths of vertebrate animals and serves as a sensory structure. The tongue is comprised of a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic muscles that enable the tongue to perform a variety of fine motor movements. In this lesson, the muscles of the tongue will be examined, in addition to the innervation and functions of the tongue.

Is the Tongue a Muscle or an Organ

Although the tongue is often referred to as an organ, there are distinct differences between a muscle and an organ. An organ relates to a group of tissues that works together to perform a specific bodily function. For example, some organs include the heart, lungs, and kidneys. A muscle, by contrast, is a type of tissue that possesses attachments to bone. Muscles help to facilitate movement within the body. Although possessing sensory functions related to touch and taste, the tongue comprises striated muscular tissue. The tongue contains eight separate muscles that together form a structure capable of performing various movements and actions. These eight muscles are divided into two categories- the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the tongue.

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Intrinsic Muscles of Tongue

The intrinsic muscles of the tongue attach to structures located within the tongue and contain no attachments outside of the tongue. Therefore, the origin and insertion points of the intrinsic muscles occur inside the tongue. These muscles are responsible for controlling the size and shape of the tongue. They also play an essential role in talking, eating, and swallowing. The intrinsic muscles include four pairs of muscles:

  • Superior longitudinal lingual muscle: helps to shorten the length of the tongue and to curl the tongue upward
    • Origin: The superior longitudinal lingual originates from the median fibrous septum near the epiglottis
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the edges of the tongue
  • Inferior longitudinal lingual muscle: helps to shorten the length of the tongue and to curl the tongue downward
    • Origin: The inferior longitudinal lingual muscle originates at the root of the tongue.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the apex, or tip, of the tongue.
  • Transverse lingual muscle: helps to lengthen the tongue and make it narrower
    • Origin: Like the superior longitudinal lingual muscle, the transverse lingual originates from the median fibrous septum.
    • Insertion: This muscle also inserts into the sides of the tongue.
  • Vertical lingual muscle: helps to flatten the tongue
    • Origin: The vertical lingual muscle originates from the submucosal fibrous layer at the bottom of the tongue.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the bottom edges of the tongue.

An image of the intrinsic muscles of the tongue.

Intrinsic muscles

Extrinsic Muscles of Tongue

The extrinsic muscles of the tongue directly attach to other structures in the mouth. Therefore, these muscles originate from outside of the tongue but insert into the tongue. These muscles help to move the tongue within the mouth. The four extrinsic muscles include:

  • Genioglossus: helps to stick the tongue out of the mouth
    • Origin: The genioglossus originates from the mandibular symphysis.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the hyoid bone and the bottom of the tongue.
  • Hyoglossus: pulls the tongue back into the mouth and helps to press the tongue to the bottom of the mouth
    • Origin: The origin of the hyoglossus is the hyoid bone.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the sides of the tongue.
  • Styloglossus: provides the tongue with the ability to roll up the sides
    • Origin: The styloglossus originates from the styloid process of the temporal bone.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the apex and sides of the tongue
  • Palatoglossus: raises the tongue to the roof of the mouth and closes the back of nasal passage when swallowing
    • Origin: The origin of the palatoglossus is the palatine aponeurosis.
    • Insertion: This muscle inserts into the length of the tongue.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 extrinsic tongue muscles?

There are actually four extrinsic tongue muscles. The extrinsic muscles are called the genioglossus, the hyoglossus, the styloglossus, and the palatoglossus.

How many intrinsic tongue muscles are there?

There are four intrinsic tongue muscles. The intrinsic muscles are the superior longitudinal lingual muscle, the inferior longitudinal lingual muscle, the transverse lingual muscle, and the vertical lingual muscle.

What are the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the tongue?

There are four intrinsic and four extrinsic muscles of the tongue. The intrinsic muscles are the superior longitudinal lingual muscle, the inferior longitudinal lingual muscle, the transverse lingual muscle, and the vertical lingual muscle. The extrinsic muscles are the genioglossus, the hyoglossus, the styloglossus, and the palatoglossus.

What is the function of the intrinsic muscles of the tongue?

The intrinsic muscles of the tongue are responsible for changing the size and shape of the tongue. The intrinsic muscles all possess their origins and attachments within the tongue itself.

How many extrinsic muscles does the tongue has?

There are four extrinsic muscle of the tongue. The names of these muscles are the hyoglossus, the genioglossus, the styloglossus, and the palatoglossus.

What are the roles of the extrinsic tongue muscles?

There are four extrinsic muscles of the tongue. These muscles are responsible for the movement of the tongue within the mouth.

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