HCSCGS17: Anatomy and Physiology of Speech, Language and Hearing (15 credits)

Course Outline

This module introduces students to the basic structure and function of human organs and systems that play an important role in speech production. It has links with HCSCSGS12 (Developmental Speech, Language & Communication Difficulties), HCSCSG14 (Phonetics & Phonology), HCSCGSG16 (Introduction to Speech, Hearing & Audiology), HCSCGS22 (Management of Acquired Communication Difficulties) and HCSCGS23 (Disorder of Vocal Tract: Structure & Function).


  • To provide students with essential knowledge of the structure and physiological function of those parts of the human body relevant to the study of speech and language sciences.
  • To develop awareness of the need for a solid grasp of the basic anatomy and physiology of the human communication system as a basis for understanding the nature and implications of their breakdown in disease.
  • To provide sufficient background knowledge to enable students to understand the underlying pathology of the various conditions that result in speech and language disorders and to be able to discuss their clients with medical colleagues.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding:

By the end of this course, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the key characteristics of the basic types of tissue that make up the human body
  • the basic structure and function of nerve and muscle cells, including generation and propagation of action potentials, synaptic transmission and the mechanisms of muscle contraction.
  • the anatomical structures and spaces in the thorax and how they are organised.
  • the anatomy and physiology of the respiratory system and its support of speech.
  • the muscles and cartilages of the larynx and their roles in voice production
  • the anatomical structures and spaces in the pharynx, nasal and oral cavities and how they move and relate to one another.
  • the overall structure and constituent parts of the nervous system and how the nervous system controls anatomical structures and physiologic events in spokent communication and swallowing.


By the end of this course, students will be able to demonstrate that they can::

  • identify in models, specimens and diagrams the components of the organs and systems related to speech.
  • explain to clients the basic functioning of the systems and organs relevant to speech production
  • use resources to obtain further information as required for individual clients.

These outcomes will be achieved through:

  • lectures that will cover all of the above described topics
  • practical sessions in the dissecting room where models and specimens will be studied
  • private study of books, lectures notes and websites.
  • interaction with the teaching staff and other students verbally and via the communication tools of Moodle.

Syllabus Content

Cell structure and function
Tissue types and structure
Structure and function of nerves and muscles
Structure and function of the vocal tract and respiratory system; basic outline of embryonic development of vocal tract structures
Overview of the anatomical organisation and functional divisions of the nervous system
Essential neurophysiology - key features of neural communication
Innervation and neural control of structures involved in speech production and swallowing.

Teaching Methods

Lectures ( 20 x 1 hour)

Practical sessions (3 x 2 hours)

Revision sessions (1 x 3 hours)


Assessment Schedule

The students will be required to complete one assessment:

Unseen written test (2 hours)

Regulations for award of MSc SLS require the student to achieve an overall mark of 50 or above for this module. All students awarded MSc SLS are eligible to apply to the Health Professions Council for registration as a speech and language therapist.

Key Texts

Atkinson, M. & McHanwell, S. (2002). Basic Medical Science for Speech and Language Therapy Students. London : Whurr.

Seeley, R.R, Stephens, T.D. & Tate, P . (2008). Anatomy and Physiology . 8 th edition (Earlier editions acceptable). Boston : McGraw-Hill Education.

Page last modified on 30 apr 09 14:47 by Kea E Young