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Consonants: introduction   

Imagine a language without consonants. It would be one long yodel.


  • If vowels can be thought of as forming the nuclei of syllables, we can think of consonants as forming their boundaries.
    In the following sentence, all the vowels are separated by consonants, except two. I've marked the consonants with C and the vowels with V:


  • 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:

    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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