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Features and description of consonants

Consonants

Consonants are those speech sounds produced with the air stream obstructed somewhere in the vocal tract. Consonants do not carry stress, loudness, and pitch information. When we describe consonants, we need to provide the information on the following three aspects:

Is the sound voiced or voiceless?
If it is produced via the vibration of the vocal folds, it is called a voiced consonant, such as the first sound of 'Bob' ([b]); if it is produced without the vibration of the vocal folds, it is called a voiceless consonant, such as the first sound of 'pop' ([p]).
Where is the air stream obstructed?
If the air obstruction is formed by using both lips, the consonant is called a bilabial consonant, such as the above consonants; if it is formed by using one lip and the teeth, it is called a labiodental consonant, such as the first sound of 'face' ([f]), and so on.
How is the air stream obstructed?
If the air obstruction is formed by blocking the air stream completely and then releasing it suddenly, the consonant is called a stop consonant, such as [b] and [p]; if it is formed by narrowing the vocal tract somewhere, the consonant is called a fricative consonant, such as [f], and so on.

Using these three aspects of information, we can describe [b] as a voiced bilabial stop consonant, [p] as a voiceless bilabial stop consonant, and [f] as a voiceless labiodental fricative consonant.

Now that we have a general understanding of consonants in general, in the next page we'll illustrate all of the English consonants by using the consonant chart. You can also hear their pronunciations there.


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