To “kuh” or not to “kuh”, that is the… well, actually it shouldn’t be a question at all at this point. And yet, not too long ago I was following an online discussion about the age old practice of using /k/ and /g/ words to work on base of tongue retraction and strength. Since I have a videofluoroscopy unit basically at my disposal, I decided that a picture was probably worth a thousand arguments.
In this clip, you will see me producing /k/ and /g/ sounds with all the force I can muster, with very little movement at the base of tongue. Toward the end of the clip, I try to retract the BOT while making these sounds and end up gagging myself (fair warning to those with weak stomachs). This particular urban legend is thought to stem from a 1989 study by Perlman et al., in which non-swallowing tasks were measured for the amount of muscle activity in the superior pharyngeal constrictor muscles when compared to a swallow. A hard /k/ sound was found to produce around 20% of the muscle activity.
Multiple experts have spoken out against the use of this as an exercise, and in fact, Dr. Perlman has been rumored to have said that she has no idea how her work was used to support this as a valid treatment. This could be yet another urban legend, however. See the link below to Dr. Perlman’s work: