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Guide to Consonants

A consonant is a sound that is created by using some part of our vocal tract to interfere with airflow. When we interfere with the airflow in this way, we create a unique sound. In American English there are several different consonants. We can divide consonants by place, manner, and voicing.

These are the consonants in American English:

Place

Place refers to which place where a sound is made, ranging from our lips to our throat. In American English there are 8 places where sounds can be made. These are bilabial, labiodental, interdental, alveolar, postalveolar, palatal, velar, and glottal.

Bilabial sounds are made by bringing both of our lips together. The bilabial consonants in American English are .

Labiodental sounds are made by raising our bottom lip to our front teeth. The labiodental consonants in American English are .

Interdental sounds are made by placing our tongue underneath our top front teeth. The interdental consonants in American English are .

Alveolar consonants are created by interfering with the air flow along the alveolar ridge. The alveolar ridge is located slightly behind our teeth. The alveolar consonants in American English are .

Post-alveolar consonants are created by stopping airflow right behind the alveolar ridge. These post-alveolar consonants in American English are .

Palatal sounds are made in the mid part of the roof of the mouth. The sound in American English is a palatal consonant.

Velar sounds are made by interfering with airflow at the velum. The velum, or soft palate, is tissue that makes up the back of the mouth. The velar sounds in American English are

Glottal sounds are made with with the help of the vocal cords in the throat, and don't rely on changing the tongue in order to produce the sound. The in American English is a glottal fricative.

Manner

Manner refers to how the sound is actually made. In American English there are seven different ways a sound might be made.

Stop/Plosive - All the air is stopped. The stops in American English are .

Fricative - A continuous, turbulent stream of air. Fricatives are .

Affricate - A combination of a stop and a fricative. The affricates in American English are .

Nasal - Made by pushing air through your nose. The nasals in American English are .

Lateral - Lateral consonants are made by pushing air over the sides of the tongue. The is a lateral approximant in American English.

Tap - Tap consonants are made by quickly tapping the tongue. The alveolar tap is the only tap in American English.

Glides - Glides are essentially moving vowels. Glides function similarly to consonants, but they are produced similarly to vowels and also are made with a lot of energy (they are sonorous), similar to how vowels are. There are two glides in American English, .

Voicing

Voicing refers to whether the consonant is produced with vocal cords which are held still or which are vibrating. A voiceless consonant is made with vocal cords that are not vibrating and that are held apart from one another. A voiced consonant is made with vibrating vocal cords. The voiceless consonants in American English are . The voiced consonants in American English are .

Summary

A consonant is a sound that is created by using some part of our vocal tract to interfere with airflow. There are three main ways of classifying consonants: manner, placing, and voicing. We can use these ways to describe how a consonant is made, where it is made, and if the vocal cords are vibrating or not when it is made.


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