Difference Between Pharynx and Larynx

Before learning about pharynx and larynx, it is essential to learn what is pharynx and larynx. These are two organs situated in the neck area of a human body. The former is a part of the alimentary canal, while the latter is a portion of the trachea.

Pharynx

Pharynx is located posterior to the oral and nasal cavities, forming part of the digestive and respiratory system. It acts as a common channel for swallowing and respiration.

Pharynx is divided into three regions – Nasopharynx, Oropharynx and Laryngopharynx.

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1. Nasopharynx

It is the posterior part of the nasal cavity. When nasopharyngeal tonsils are enlarged, those are called adenoids which cause a restriction in respiration.

2. Oropharynx

Oropharynx merges with epiglottis. The tonsil is lodged between the two arches of oropharynx.

3. Laryngopharynx

Laryngopharynx extends from the epiglottis and merges with the oesophagus. 

There are four layers of muscles in pharynx. These are the following, starting from inside –

  • A mucous membrane 

  • A fibrous coat 

  • A muscular coat 

  • A fascial coat 

What is the Function of the Pharynx?

  • Regulating the passage of food to oesophagus as well as air to lungs

  • Performs both respiratory and digestive functions 

Larynx

As opposed to pharynx, larynx is an organ connecting the lower part of pharynx with trachea. It not only acts as a valve to the passage of air but also helps in vocalisation and swallowing.

Larynx is divided into three parts – supraglottis, glottis and subglottis.

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1. Supraglottis

It lies above the vocal cord containing the epiglottis cartilage.

2. Glottis

It pertains to the area of the vocal cord.

3. Subglottis

 It is the area beneath the vocal cord that contains the cricoid cartilage. 

There are extrinsic muscles that elevate and depress the larynx. These are –

  • Stylopharyngeus muscles 

  • Palatopharyngeus muscles 

  • Infrahyoid muscles

What is the Function of the Larynx?

  • Performs protective function by lowering the airways 

  • Facilitates respiratory function with air passage 

  • Conducts phonatory functions with the help of vocal cords 

Do You Know?

The vestibular folds in the larynx are also known as false vocal cords, as those have no role to play in sound production. It is the lower folds that are the true vocal cords. These folds have more mass in men than women, which explains the heaviness voice in the former. However, this change is apparent only after puberty. 

Find out about the difference between pharynx and larynx below. 

Pharynx vs Larynx

Sl.No

Parameters

Pharynx

Larynx

1.

Component 

Membrane lined cavity connecting mouth to oesophagus and nose to larynx

Hollow muscular structure 

2.

Location 

Located behind nose and mouth 

Situated on C3-6 vertebral disc

3.

System 

Part of both digestive system and respiratory system 

Part of respiratory system only 

4.

Walls 

Muscular walls 

Walls made of cartilage 

5.

Anatomy 

Three regions in pharynx are – laryngopharynx, oropharynx, nasopharynx

Cartilages in larynx are – cricoid cartilage, thyroid cartilage, corniculate cartilage, arytenoid cartilage

6.

Structure 

Pharynx refers to a region 

Larynx refers to an organ 

7.

Vocal cord 

No vocal cord in pharynx 

Presence of vocal cords in larynx

 

In spite of differences between pharynx and larynx, there are similarities as well. Those are –

  • Pharynx and larynx are both located inside the throat. 

  • Performs a common function of swallowing.

  • Both pharynx and larynx are instrumental in passing air for breathing.

Test Yourself 

i. The uppermost part of the pharynx is known as -

(a) Nasopharynx

(b) Oropharynx

(c) Laryngopharynx

(d) Epiglottis

ii. Which among the following does not qualify as vocal characteristics that leads to the uniqueness of our voice?

(a) frequency

(b) intensity

(c) phonatory quality

(d) articulation 

[To check your answer, see the solution mentioned at the end of the article]

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is Pharynx?

Ans. Within the pharynx larynx trachea, pharynx is a tubular muscular passage between the nasal cavity and mouth. 

2. Mention the Role of Larynx. 

Ans. Even though pharynx and larynx anatomy is largely similar, the latter plays a distinct role. It is a passage for air and contains vocal cords acting as the "voice box".

3. Indicate the Major Difference Between Pharynx and Larynx. 

Ans. Pharynx and larynx difference is that the former is a region, but larynx is an organ. Pharynx is part of both the digestive and respiratory system and lacks vocal cord. On the contrary, larynx is part of only the respiratory system, and it is where the vocal cord can be found.

[Solutions]

i. (a) Nasopharynx

ii. (d) articulation