The tongue is a mass of muscle that is almost completely covered by a mucous membrane. It occupies most of the oral cavity and oropharynx. It is known for its role in taste, but it also assists with mastication (chewing), deglutition (swallowing), articulation (speech), and oral cleansing. Five cranial nerves contribute to the complex innervation of this multifunctional organ.
The embryologic origins of the tongue first appear at 4 weeks’ gestation.
The body of the tongue forms from derivatives of the first branchial arch. This gives rise to 2 lateral lingual swellings and 1 median swelling (known as the tuberculum impar). The lateral lingual swellings slowly grow over the tuberculum impar and merge, forming the anterior two thirds of the tongue. Parts of the second, third, and fourth branchial arches give rise to the base of the tongue. Occipital somites give rise to myoblasts, which form the intrinsic tongue musculature.