English Consonants and their Place and Manner of articulation

Consonants are determined by whether the vocal cords, vibrate where the air is impeded and how it is impeded; using linguistic terms, they are determined by Voicing, Place of Articulation and Manner of Articulation. Voicing shows whether the vocal cords move or not. Manner shows in which the stream of air is interfered with. Place shows the point in the vocal track at which the obstruction is made.

The consonant is described in terms of these three parameters: In Place of Articulation, three stages are recognized: (a) on set (b) hold and (release). In the first, vocal folds assume the position of sound. In the second, full control is taken and there is readiness for articulation and in the third, organs produce sounds, leave the release stage and get back to onset for more sounds.  In Voicing, all vowels are voiced. Consonants may be voiced or unvoiced. /b/ and /d/ are voiced because when we produce them, vocal chords vibrate. Thus, Francis Says:

p – b
voiceless – voiced
t – d
Tip alveolar
k – g
Back velar
t‰ – d½
voiceless – voiced
Blade/front Palato-alveolar
f – v
Blade alveolar
S – 3
Blade/Front Palato-Alveolar
Lateral approximant
Blade-post alveolar
“If we define a vowel as a sound resulting from the unrestricted passage of the air stream via mouth or nasal cavity with audible friction, we define consonants as the opposite”
We can show the place and manner of consonant articulation through the chart. According to Place of Articulation, Consonants are divided as follows:
1.       Bilabial: where lips come together as in /p-b/. examples are: /bat/, /pat/
2.      Labio-dental: where lower lip and the upper teeth come together as in /f-v/ examples are: /fan/, /van/
3.      Dental: where tip of the tongue meets the upper teeth as in /Š†/
4.      Alveolar: where tip touches alveolar ridge as in /t-d,s-z,n,l,r/ examples are: /tap/, /dip/ and /zip/ etc.
5.      PalatoAlveolar: requires two points of contact: tip close to the alveolar ridge which front of the tongue is concave to the roof of the mouth as in /S – 3, t‰ – d½ /. Examples are: /ship/, /chip/ and /jug/
6.      Palatal: front of the tongue approximates to the hard palate. It is possible to have palatal plosives, fricatives, laterals and nasals but in English only palatal sound is voiced, semi-vowel /j/. as in /yes/
7.      Velar: where back of the tongue meets the soft palate. In English, we have four velars as / k,g, ÷,w/. Examples are: /kick/, /whip/ etc.
In Manner of Articulation, the first obstacle the air meets in the vocal track is in the glottis (the gap between the vocal folds). The vocals are open, sounds are voiceless and closely approximated so the sound is voiced. The vocal track is a resonance chamber and different sounds can be produced by changing the shape of the chamber. According to Place of Articulation, we have Plosives, Fricatives, Affricates, Nasals, Laterals and Approximants.
1.       Stops or Plosives: (p – b,t – d,k – g) these involve the complete closure in the mouth. Pressure builds up behind the closure in the mouth and when the air is suddenly released a plosive is made.
2.      Fricatives: (f – v,Š†,sz, S – 3, – h) these involve incomplete closure at some point in the mouth. The air escapes through a narrowed channel with audible friction.
3.      Affricate:  (t‰ – d½) Affricates are a combination of sounds. Initially, there is a complete closure like a plosive. This then is followed by a slow release with friction as for a fricative as in chop and judge.
4.      Nasals: (nm, ÷) these involve complete closure of the mouth. The velum is lowered, diverting the air through the nose. Vocal chords vibrate in English nasals.
5.      Laterals: ( l ) these involve partial closure in the mouth. The air stream is blocked by the tip of the tongue but allowed to escape around the sides of the tongue. The words, ‘light’ and ‘full’ have the lateral sound. The sound is voiced.
6.      Approximants: (r -w-j) /r/ a variant of it is that sound in which tip and teeth ridge leave enough gap for the air to escape. This is, therefore, called by a different class-name, Approximant. The English R in very and marry is approximant. Semi-Vowels or Consonants: (j w) the sounds that begin the words ‘you’ and ‘wet’ are made without closure in the mouth. To this extent, they are vowels. They normally occur at the beginning of a word or syllable, however, and thus behave functionally like consonants. 

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