How Consonants Are Formed: The Manner of Articulation

By William F. Katz

Part of Phonetics For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You make consonants by completely or partially blocking airflow during speech. You can do this in different ways: you can completely block airflow, push air through a groove or slit to make a hissing sound, block air then make a hiss, or bring the speech articulators (the organs of speech) close together to shape sound. The result is different manners of articulation (different ways of making a sound). You need to be able to label all these processes in order to work with speech in a clinical or educational setting. Here are some key terms for consonant manner of articulation.

  • Affricate: A stop followed by a fricative with the same place of articulation, such as /ʧ/ as in “chip” and /ʤ/ as in “germ.”

  • Approximant: A sound made by bringing articulators together to shape airflow, while not blocking air or causing hissing. Examples include “read,” “weed,” “lead,” and “you.”

  • Flap: A rapidly made stop consonant, usually voiced, such as the “t” in “Betty” as pronounced in American English

  • Fricative: A hissy consonant, such as in “fat,” “vat,” “thick,” “this,” “sip,” “zip,” “ship,” and “leisure”. It’s made by producing friction in the airstream.

  • Glide: A subgroup of the approximants, also called semivowels, including the sounds /j/ as in “you” and /w/ as in “we”.

  • Lateral: Sounds made by directing airflow around the sides of the tongue, such as /l/ in “listen”.

  • Liquid: The other two English approximants (besides glides), /l/ and /ɹ/.

  • Nasal: Sounds produced with airflow escaping through the nasal passage, such as in “meat,” “neat,” and “sing“.

  • Stop: Also known as plosive, a sound made with complete closure of the oral cavity.