Another way of distinguishing betweeen vowels and consonants would be to say that the tongue and lips form vowels without obstructing the airflow, while consonants are formed by obstructing or constricting the airflow. It is much easier to describe and classify consonants by describing this constriction than vowels. Three features go into our description:
- Manner of Articulation : how much constriction is there? Is the air completely blocked, partly blocked or only slightly hindered? Is the consonant nasalised or not (i.e. does the air flow through both the nose and the mouth, or just the mouth?
- Place of Articulation : where in the mouth does the constriction occur? What parts of the mouth are involved (lips, teeth, tongue, roof of the mouth)?
- Voicing : are the vocal chords vibrating as the consonant is pronounced?
The following table from Roach (p. 65) classifies the English consonants according to these features, mapping manner against place of articulation. Where there are two symbols together the left-hand is fortis or unvoiced, and the right is lenis or (generally speaking) voiced.
Click on the following table for further information about the articulation and the symbols.
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