Phonology “Place and Manner of Articulation”




  1. A.   Definitions
    1. Place of articulation, an active articulator (typically some part of the tongue), and a passive location (typically some part of the roof of the mouth). Along with the manner of articulation and the phonation, this gives the consonant its distinctive sound.
    2. Manner of articulation, how speech organs involved in making a sound make contact.


  1. Articulation is the way of saying things more clearly. If someone said “your articulation isn’t good enough. Articulate your words more clearly” means that u need to say the words more precise so it can be more understood and you’re not eating your words, like you have something on your mouth while talking.


  1. B.   General Hypotesis

Any speech sound characterized by an articulation in which a closure or narrowing of the vocal tract completely or partially blocks the flow of air; also, any letter or symbol representing such a sound. Consonants are usually classified according to the place of articulation (e.g., palate, teeth, lips); the manner of articulation, as in stops (complete closure of the oral passage, released with a burst of air), fricatives (forcing of breath through a constricted passage), and trills (vibration of the tip of the tongue or the uvula); and the presence or absence of voicing, nasalization, aspiration, and other features.





  1. A.   Place of Articulation

When we produce and describe consonants, we use vocal track that contains some discrete physical landmarks. In describing the place of articulation, we are describing where in the vocal tract a sound is made.

Articulators are the parts of the oral tract that are used in producing speech sounds. There are two kinds of Articulations, active and passive articulation. Active articulators are ones that move: the tongue tip is an active articulator in sounds like [s t n], since it moves up to behind the teeth. Passive articulators are articulators that cannot move, but are the target for active articulators. In the case of sounds like [s t n], the passive articulator is the bony ridge behind the upper teeth, known as the alveolar ridge.

Most places of articulation are described by reference to the passive articulator. We start our description of them with the lips, working our way down the vocal tract.

Below we will discuss exactly where and how sound is formed.

  1. 1.      Bilabial

Bilabial sounds are sounds produced by both lips. ‘Bi-’ means ‘two’, and ‘labial’ is an adjective based on the Latin word for ‘lips’. In English, the sounds [p b m] are bilabial. If you say [apa aba ama] and look in the mirror, you will see that they look identical. If you say the sounds silently to yourself and concentrate on your lips, you will feel that the two lips touch one another for a short period, and the action is basically the same for all three sounds.

  1. 2.      Libiodental

Labiodental sounds are made with the upper teeth (‘dental’) against the lower lip (‘labio’). In English  the labiodental sounds [f v] occur. Logically speaking, labiodental sounds could involve the lower teeth and the upper lip, but this is difficult for most people to do: it involves protruding the jaw, and most people have upper teeth that sit in front of the lower teeth. Labiodental sounds can be made with the teeth against either the inside surface of the lip (endolabial) or the outside edge of the lip (exolabial).

  1. 3.      Dental

Dental sounds involve an articulation made against the back of the upper 12 teeth. [θ d] in English (as in the initial sounds of ‘think’ and ‘then’) are often dental; they can also be interdental, that is, produced with the tongue between (‘inter’ in Latin) the teeth, especially in North America. Dental forms of [l] and [n] are used in words like ‘health’ and ‘tenth’, where they are followed by a dental; and dental forms of [t] and [d] are regularly used in many varieties of English (e.g. some forms of Irish or New York English, and in Nigeria) as forms of [θ d].

  1. 4.      Alveolar

Alveolar sounds are those sounds made by the articulation of the tip of the tongue towards the alveolar ridge, the ridge of cartilage behind the teeth. Examples of such sounds in English are the following: [t], [d], [s], [z], [n], [l], .

  1. 5.      Postalveolar

Postalveolar consonants (sometimes spelled post-alveolar) are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate (the place of articulation for palatal consonants). Examples of postalveolar consonants are the English palato-alveolar consonants [ʃ] [tʃ] [ʒ] [dʒ], as in the words “shill”, “‘chill”, “vision”, and “Jill”, respectively.

There are a large number of types of postalveolar sounds, especially among the sibilants. The three primary types are palato-alveolar (e.g. [ʃ ʒ], weakly palatalized); alveolo-palatal (e.g. [ɕ ʑ], strongly palatalized); and retroflex (e.g. [ʂ ʐ], unpalatalized). The palato-alveolar and alveolo-palatal subtypes are commonly counted as “palatals” in phonology, since they rarely contrast with true palatal consonants.

  1. 6.      Retroflex

Retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology. Other terms occasionally encountered are domal and cacuminal.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, retroflex consonants are indicated with a hook in the bottom right, such as [ʂ ʐ ʈ ɖ ɳ ɭ ɽ ɻ]. Alternatively, especially for those sounds with a relatively forward articulation (e.g. in the alveolar or postalveolar region rather than the hard palate), they can be indicated with a retracted diacritic (underbar); this occurs especially for [s̱ ẕ]. (Other sounds indicated this way, such as [ṉ ḻ ḏ], tend to refer to alveolo-palatal rather than retroflex consonants.)

  1. 7.      Coronal

Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Only the coronal consonants can be divided into apical (using the tip of the tongue), laminal (using the blade of the tongue), domed (with the tongue bunched up), or subapical (using the underside of the tongue), as well as a few rarer orientations, because only the front of the tongue has such dexterity. Coronals have another dimension, grooved, that is used to make sibilants in combination with the orientations above. In Arabic and Maltese philology, the sun letters transcribe coronal consonants.

In Australian languages, coronals contrast with peripheral consonants.

  1. 8.      Palatal

Palatal sounds are those sounds made by the articulation of the body of the tongue towards the hard palate. An example of such a sound in English is [j].

  1. 9.      Velar

Velar sounds are those sounds made by the articulation of the body of the tongue towards the velum. Examples of such sounds in English are the following: [k], [g], .

  1. 10.  Uvular

Uvular sounds are those sounds made by the articulation of the back of the tongue towards the uvula. Uvular sounds do not exist in English, but the French “r” is pronounced by the uvular sounds  and .

  1. 11.  Pharyngeal

Pharyngeal sounds are those sounds made by the articulation of the tongue root towards the back of the pharynx. Pharyngeal sounds do not exist in Standard American English, but are found in languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.

  1. 12.  Glottal

Glottal sounds are those sounds made at the glottis. Examples of glottal sounds in English are the following: , .



  1. B.   Manner of Articulation

As well as knowing where a sound is made, we need to know how it is made. Consonants involve at least two articulators. When the articu – lators are brought closer together, the flow of air between them changes: for instance, it can be stopped or made turbulent. The channels between any two articulators govern the pressure and flow of air through the vocal tract, and in turn this affects the kinds of sound that come out. The way a sound is made (rather than where it is made) is called manner of articulation. Most manners of articulation are combinable with most places of articulation.


  1. 1.      Stop articulations

Stop articulations are those sounds where a complete closure is made in the oral tract between two articulators; this stops the air moving out of the oral tract. Stop articulations include a whole range of sound types, which vary according to the kind of airflow (oral vs. nasal) and whether the closure can be maintained for a long time or not.

Plosives are made with a complete closure in the oral tract, and with the velum raised, which prevents air escaping through the nose. English Plosives include the sounds [p t k b d _]. Plosives are ‘maintainable’ stops because they can be held for a long time, and the closure portion arises from a deliberate articulation. The term ‘plosive’ relates to the way the stop is released – with what is sometimes called an ‘explosion’. We look at the release of plosives in more detail in Chapter 7. It is worth pointing out that many phoneticians use the word ‘stop’ to mean ‘plosive’. We are using the word ‘stop’ in Catford’s (2001) sense.

Nasals are made with a complete closure in the oral tract, but with the velum lowered so that air escapes through the nose. For English there are three main nasal sounds, [m n ŋ], bilabial, alveolar and velar respectively. Nasals are usually voiced in English. The other kinds of stopped articulations are trills and taps. In these sounds, a closure is made only for a very short time, and the closure arises because of aerodynamics or the movement of articulators from one position to another.

Trills are rare in English, but they are one form of ‘rolled r’: they involve the tongue tip striking the alveolar ridge repeatedly (usually three to four times). They have a very restricted occurrence in English, primarily among a very particular kind of theatrical performer, though they are often thought of as typically Scottish

Taps on the other hand are quite common in English. These consist of just one short percussive movement of the tongue tip against the alveolar ridge. They occur in many varieties of English, but are especially well known as kinds of [t] or [d] sound in many North American varieties in words like ‘bu[ɾ]er’, ‘wri[ɾ]er’, ‘a[ɾ]om’.


  1. 2.      Fricative articulations

Fricative articulations are the result of two articulators being in close approximation with each other. This is a degree of stricture whereby the articulators are held close enough together for air to pass between them, but because the gap between them is small, the airflow becomes turbulent and reates friction noise. (In lay terms, we might talk about a ‘hissing’ sound.) Fricatives in English include [f v θ d s z ʃ _], the sounds represented orthographically by the underlined portion: fish, vow, think, then, loose, lose, wish, vision. Notice that there are not very consistent representations particularly for the sounds [ʃ _] in English spelling.

Fricative articulations can be held for as long as there is sufficient air to expel. The amount of friction generated depends on the amount of air being forced through the stricture and on the degree of stricture. If you produce a [s] sound and then push more air out, you will notice an increase in the loudness (intensity) of the friction. If you do this and at the same time make the tongue tenser, the intensity of the friction will increase and the friction will sound ‘sharper’. On the other hand, if you relax the articulators in producing a [s] sound, you will notice that the friction gets quieter and that it changes quality, becoming ‘flatter’.

Affricates are plosives which are released into fricatives. English has two of these: [tʃ d_], both postalveolar, as in ‘church’ and ‘judge’.

The sounds [h _] as in ‘heart’ and ‘ahead’ are voiceless and voiced glottal fricatives respectively. These sounds are produced with friction at the glottis.

Tongue shape plays a determining role in the overall sound of fricatives.


  1. 3.      Resonant articulations

If articulators are held so as not to generate friction, but to allow air to pass between them smoothly, then we get articulations known as resonant. The degree of stricture is known as open approximation, and consonant sounds generated this way are called approximants. Vowels are another kind of resonant articulation.

Approximants in English include the sounds [j w l r]. (Note: [j] stands for the sound usually written <y> in English, as in ‘yes’. The phonetic symbol [y] stands for a vowel.) [j w] are often called glides, because they are closely related in phonetic terms to the vowels [i] and [u], and can be thought of as non-syllabic versions of these vowels. [l r] are often called liquids, and they have certain similarities in the places where they occur in consonant clusters. We will use the symbol [r] for now to represent any kind of [r]-sound, though for the majority of English varieties, a more accurate symbol would be [ɹ].

The English approximants [w j r] are central and [l] is lateral. Approximants are among the phonetically most complex of sounds in English because they typically involve more than one articulation.







  1. A.   Conclusion

Consonants possess relatively less overall energy than vowels and need not have a clear formant structure. In terms of articulation, they are characterized by the presence of a noise-producing obstruction in the epiglottal cavities of the speech organs; they are produced in a precisely determined manner and have a strictly fixed point of articulation. In addition to the noise source, a tonal sound source—the larynx—may also participate in the articulation of consonants; in the larynx, the “voice” feature is created by periodic vibrations of the vocal cords. Depending on whether only the first source or both sources are present during the articulation of a consonant, a distinction is made between voiceless consonants, such as the Russian p, t, s, and x, and voiced consonants, such as the Russian b, d, z, l, and n. The voiced consonants include a group of resonant consonants (sonants), such as l, r, m, n, and j, which are distinguished from the obstruents, both voiced and voiceless, by the presence of a clear formant structure. The clear formant structure makes sonants similar to vowels, although sonants are characterized by less overall energy. Sonants include the nasal consonants. During the articulation of nasals, the soft palate is lowered, thus causing the nasal cavity to act as a resonator.




Ogden, Richard. 2009. An Introduction to English Phonetics. 22 George Square: Edinburgh University Press

McMahon, April. 2002. An Introduction to English Phonology. 22 George Square: Edinburgh University Press


Coleman, John, 2001, The vocal tract and larynx, Available from      



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