Лекция: Consonants and their classification

Consonantsare sounds which are made by obstructing the flow of air at some point in our mouth.

1. They can be classified, first of all, according to the manner of articulation, that is the way they are pronounced:

· friction (fricative)

· stop

· affricate

· nasal

· lateral

· gliding

2. Some of the consonants are produced by a vibration of the vocal cords, rather like a vibration that produces vowel sounds. And in some consonants there is no such voicing. That’s why we say that according to the presence or absence of voice during the articulation of consonants they can be divided into:

· voiced

· voiceless

3. Consonants differ in theforce of articulation. Voiceless consonants are said to be pronounced with greater force than voiced ones. So, consonants are:

· strong or fortis (voiceless)

· weak or lenis (voiced)

4. Consonants have different length. Voiceless consonants are considerably longer than voiced ones:

· long (voiceless)

· short (voiced)

5. Consonants can also be classified according to the place of articulation. So, they can be:

· bilabial (made with the help of the two lips)

· labiodental (the lower lip articulates with the upper teeth)

· dental (the tongue tip touches the upper teeth)

· alveolar (the tip or blade of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge)

· post-alveolar (the tip of the tongue touches the back of the alveolar ridge)

· palatal (the front of the tongue articulates with the hard palate)

· velar (the back of the tongue articulates with the soft palate)

· glottal (produced in the glottis, between the vocal cords)


  Place of articulation
Bilabial Labio-dental Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Manner of articulation Stop p b     t d     k g  
Friction   f v T D s z S Z     h
Affricate         C G      
Nasal m     n     N  
Lateral       l        
Gliding w       r j    


There is also a very important general rule which applies to many pairs of English consonants: strong consonants at the end of words shorten the vowel before them, while weak consonants make it longer (e.g. in [kxp]vowel [x] is made shorter by the following voiceless consonant [p], and in [kxb]the same vowel is made longer by the following voiced consonant).


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