The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







See also consonance in music.
Places of articulation
Labial consonant
Bilabial consonant
Labiodental consonant
Linguolabial consonant
Coronal consonant
Interdental consonant
Dental consonant
Retroflex consonant
Alveolar consonant
Postalveolar consonant
Alveolo-palatal consonant
Dorsal consonant
Palatal consonant
Labial-palatal consonant 
Velar consonant
Labial-velar consonant
Uvular consonant
Pharyngeal consonant
Epiglottal consonant
Glottal consonant
Manners of articulation
Nasal consonant
Stop consonant
Fricative consonant
Lateral consonant
Approximant consonant
Liquid consonant
Flap consonant
Trill consonant
Ejective consonant
Implosive consonant
Click consonant

A consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by a constriction or closure at one or more points along the vocal tract. The word consonant comes from Latin meaning "sounding with" or "sounding together", the idea being that consonants don't sound on their own, but only occur with a nearby vowel. This conception of consonants, however, does not reflect the modern linguistic understanding which defines consonants in terms of vocal tract constrictions.

There are a group of consonants called sonorants that sometimes act as vowels, occupying the peak of a syllable, and sometimes act as consonants. For example, in English, the sound [m] in "mud" is a consonant, but in "prism", it occupies an entire syllable, as a vowel would.

The word consonant is also used to refer to letters of an alphabet that denote a consonant sound. Consonant letters in the English alphabet are B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Z, and sometimes Y — the letter Y stands for a consonant in "yoke" but for a vowel in "myth", for example.

Since the number of consonants in the world's languages is much greater than the number of consonant letters in most alphabets, linguists have devised systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to assign a unique symbol to each possible consonant. In fact, the Latin alphabet, which is used to write English, has fewer consonant letters than English has consonant sounds, so some letters represent more than one consonant, and digraphs like "sh" and "th" are used to represent some sounds. Many speakers aren't even aware that the "th" sound in "this" is a different sound from the "th" sound in "thing" (in IPA they're [ð] and [θ], respectively).

Each consonant can be distinguished by several features:

All English consonants can be classified by a combination of these, such as "voiceless alveolar stop consonant" [t]. In this case, the airstream mechanism is omitted.

Some pairs of consonants like p::b, t::d are sometimes called fortis and lenis.

The following tables list all the consonants listed by the IPA. The first table contains consonants articulated in the front part of the mouth, and the second table contains consonants articulated in the back part of the mouth. The places of articulation are listed on top, and the manners of articulation on the left side. Where consonants occur in pairs, the consonant on the left represents a voiceless articulation and the consonant on the right represents a voiced articulation.

See also


  • interactive manner and place of articulation

Last updated: 02-05-2005 02:35:32
Last updated: 04-29-2005 16:21:04