Linguistics 105 * Words and Sounds
Lecture Number Four
The Articulatory Properties
of Consonants


  1. Natural Classes of Consonants

    (Manner and Place of Articulation)

    1. Stop (Occlusive) Consonants
      1. Stops are made by occluding the flow of air
        1. by pressing both lips together (bilabials): [p b]
        2. by pressing the tongue against
          1. the teeth (= dentals) [ d]
          2. the alveolar ridge (= alveolars) [t d]
          3. the palate (= palatals) [c ]
          4. the velum (= velars) [k g]
          5. the uvula (= uvulars) [q G]
        3. by closing the glottis (vocal cords) = glottal stop [], e.g. [Ϛo] "uh-oh"

        Gold Flower Table 1: Stops (Occlusives)
        Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
        Voiceless p t t c k q
        Voiced b d d g G

      2. Stops are most often distinguished by voicing but in English, they are distinguished primarily by the aspiration of voiceless stops (except after /s/ and at the end of words).

        Gold Flower Distribution of Aspiration in English
        Labial Alveolar Velar
        Voiceless pie [phaj] tie [thaj] kite [khajt]
        Voiced buy [baj] die [daj] guy [gaj]
        After [s] spy [spaj] sty [staj] sky [skaj]
        Finally map [mp] gnat[nt] knack [nk]

    2. Fricative Consonants are made by pressing the lips and the tongue in the same places but not enough to occlude the flow of air but to obstruct it just enough to cause friction:
      1. the lips (bilabial) [Phi ] Spanish 'b' = [], e.g. saber 'knowledge' ([saer])
      2. the lips and the teeth (labiodentals) [f v]
      3. the tongue between the teeth (interdentals) [ ], e.g. theater and this
      4. the teeth or alveolar ridge (alveolars) [s z]
      5. the palate (palatals) [ ], e.g. English shut and garage
      6. the velum (velars) [x ], e.g. German Loch 'hole', Russian dux 'spirit'; Ukrainian golod ([olod]) 'hunger' vs. xolod 'cold'

      Gold Flower Table 2: Fricatives
      Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
      Voiceless f s x h
      Voiced v z

    3. Affricate (Delayed release) Consonants. These are a combination of a stop and a fricative.

      Gold Flower Table 3: Affricates (Delayed Release)
      Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
      Voiceless . ts .
      Voiced . dz .

    4. Sonorant Consonants (always voiced & may be syllabic)
      1. Liquids: lateral [l] and circumflex [r]
      2. Glides: labiovelar [w] and palatal [j]
      3. Nasals: [m n ]

      Gold Flower Table 4: Nasals
      Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar
      Voiced m n

    5. Additional Properties All obstruents may have additional properties (i.e. belong to additional natural classes).
      1. Retroflection (Hindi):
      2. Palatalization (Polish, Russian): [p' b' t' d' k' g']

  2. Conclusions

    The natural classes of consonants are based on

    1. Place of articulation
      1. lips (labials)
      2. teeth (dentals)
      3. alveolum (alveolars)
      4. hard palate (palatals)
      5. soft palate or velum (velars)
      6. uvula (uvulars)
      7. glottis (glottals)
    2. Manner of articulation
      1. occlusion (stops)
      2. friction (fricatives)
      3. occlusion + friction (affricates)
      4. ALSO: sonorants (nasals and liquids) and glides
    3. Glottal State
      1. voicing (vibrating the vocal folds)
    4. Other properties
      1. nasalization (opening the phraryngeal flap)
        (usually considered in "Manner of Articulation")
      2. aspiration (exhaling hard)
      3. sharping (Russian 'soft' consonants)
      4. retroflexing (curling the tongue backward)
      5. labialization (lip rounding)

To Lecture 3 To the Linguistics Program homepage * Other linguistics courses * Relax and continue learning linguistics! * Return to the LN 105 syllabus * Other linguistics web sites To Lecture 5
© 1996-2000 yourDictionary.com, Inc.