Videofluoroscopy was used to examine movement patterns during swallowing and speech production in 6 parkinsonian subjects and 6 age-matched controls. Motility patterns for liquid and semisolid swallows were documented. We performed temporospatial analyses of oropharyngeal structures, particularly the velum, which is prominently involved in both motor speech production and swallowing. Differences were found between groups and conditions. All of the parkinsonian subjects exhibited abnormal oropharyngeal movement patterns and timing during the volitional oral as well as the pharyngeal stage of swallowing; only 50% of these subjects admitted to any swallowing difficulty upon questioning. Two of the subjects with Parkinson's disease aspirated liquids. Duration of velar movement during speech production significantly differentiated the groups (p less than 0.01), reflecting reduced range of velar motion. Our findings suggest that rigidity and bradykinesia underlie the volitional speech abnormality as well as the disordered oral and pharyngeal stages of swallowing. Findings indicate that parkinsonian patients may be "silent aspirators" with decreased cough reflexes and lack of awareness of aspiration. The clinical value of videofluoroscopic monitoring of swallowing is that aspiration may be detected and managed early.