English consonants detail analyzation or The criteria for description and classification of consonants

In linguistic there are two broad categories of sound i.e. VOWEL and CONSONANT

Consonants:- In English alphabet, consonants are those speech sounds that is not a vowel for ex; apart from a, e, i, o, u are all consonants. There are 21 consonants in English.

In other words, a consonant in articulatory phonetics, is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract.

Example like; [p] and [b] pronounced with lips

                         [t] and [d] pronounced with front tongue

                         [h] pronounced in the throat while,

                         [m] and [n] as they have air flowing through the nose pronounced with nasal

                         [v] and [s] pronounced by forcing air through a narrow- channels called (fricatives)

Therefore, we produced consonant by involving vocal tracts, narrower at some location than it usually is. We call this narrowing a constriction.

Also, producing consonant depends on a few other things such as; whether the vocal folds are vibrating or whether air is flowing through nose.

Consonants are classified on three  major dimensions i.e.

  1. The place of Articulation (alveolar)
  2. Manner of Articulation (oral stop)
  3. Voicing (voiced or voiceless)

The place of Articulation:- This dimension specifies where in the vocal tract, constriction is or narrowing occurs from front to back the POAs that English has are; Bilabial, Labiodental, Dental, Alveolar, Post-Alveolar, Retroflex, Palatal, Velar, and Glottal.

  • Bilabial:- In this, both upper and lower lips approach or touch each other while pronouncing bilabial consonants, for ex; [post] [broad] [meal] etc.
  • Labio- dental:- In this, the lower lip approaches or touches the upper teeth while pronouncing labio-dental consonant words, for ex; [vow] [f] [v] etc.
  • Alveolar:- In this, the tongue tip approaches or touches the alveolar ridge while producing alveolar consonant, for ex; [tool] [day] [lip] [zoo] [t] [d] etc.
  • Velar:- In velar, the body of the tongue approaches the soft palate or velum, for ex; [rock] [ring] [bag] etc.
  • Glottal:- The Glottal sounds are the two cord sounds which moves closer resulting in a narrowing of the air passage, for ex; [hat] [h] etc.
  • Palatal:- In this, the body of the tongue touches the hard palate, for ex; [yard] [j] etc.
  • Dental:- In dental production of consonant, the tip or blade of the tongue touches the upper teeth, for ex; [think] [thin] [these] etc.

Manner of Articulation:-  It refers to the specification of the kind of closure or narrowing in the production of a sound.

Also, in order to give a complete description of a consonant it is  necessary to specify the manner of articulation.

Manner of articulation are classified as the followings;

(nasal stops like [n] involving airflow by nose)

(oral stops like [t] [d] do not involve airflow)

  • Fricative:- to produce fricative sound there is no closure made anywhere, there is only a narrowing, the articulators involved in the constriction approach to get close enough to each other to create a turbulent airstream.

The fricatives in English; [f] [v] [s] [z] etc.

  • Plosive:- to produce plosive there is a complete closure of the articulators at some point in the vocal tract by completing, shutting off the air passage.

For ex; [pit] [bit] [tip] [dip] [keep] etc.

  • Lateral:- sounds which involves airflow around the side of the tongue are called laterals. Those which are not lateral sounds are known as central.

For ex; [left] [life] etc.

  • Affricates:- affricates are produced by a complete closure of the air passage, followed by the building up of pressure behind the closure and the gradual released of the blocked air.

For ex; [choice] [joy] etc.

Voicing:-  It is classified between two categories i.e. Voiceless and Voiced

Voiceless- If there is no ‘hum’ or  ‘buzz’ sound could be heard during the production of the sound, this sound will be voiceless.

Voiced- If there is a ‘hum’ or ‘buzz’ sound during the production of sound and vocal cords vibrate, this sound will be voiced.

There are several pairs of sound in English which is different in voicing, are as follow;

Voiceless   Voiced

[p]                  [b]

[t]                   [d]

[k]                   [g]

[f]                   [v]

[s]                    [z]


3 thoughts on “English consonants detail analyzation or The criteria for description and classification of consonants

  1. Priti 14 Sep 2022 / 9:04 am

    Very informative and interesting article ! Well shared .👌

    Liked by 1 person

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