To understand the role of the tongue in speech production, it is desirable to directly image the motion and strain of the muscles within the tongue. Magnetic resonance tagging-which was originally developed for cardiac imaging-has previously been applied to image both two-dimensional and three-dimensional tongue motion during speech. However, to quantify three-dimensional motion and strain, multiple images yielding two-dimensional motion must be acquired at different orientations and then interpolated-a time-consuming task both in image acquisition and processing. Recently, a new MR imaging and image processing method called zHARP was developed to encode and track 3D motion from a single slice without increasing acquisition time. zHARP was originally developed and applied to cardiac imaging. The application of zHARP to the tongue is not straightforward because the tongue in repetitive speech does not move as consistently as the heart in its beating cycle. Therefore tongue images are more susceptible to motion artifacts. Moreover, these artifacts are greatly exaggerated as compared to conventional tagging because of the nature of zHARP acquisition. In this work, we re-implemented the zHARP imaging sequence and optimized it for the tongue motion analysis. We also optimized image acquisition by designing and developing a specialized MRI scanner triggering method and vocal repetition to better synchronize speech repetitions. Our method was validated using a moving phantom. Results of 3D motion tracking and strain analysis on the tongue experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of this method.