Week 3: Consonants

Introduction to Consonants

So you can think of consonants like the opposite of vowels. With vowels, air flows freely and unobstructed. With consonants, the passage of air is blocked. 

This means that we use some part of our speech organ, it can be our lips, our tongue, our teeth, whatever. 

Sometimes we stop airflow completely, sometimes only partially, the key difference is that we stop the passage of air in some way, shape, or form. 

Like vowels, consonants have three key features:

Place of Articulation—where in you stop airflow. For example, if you close your lips completely, then the place of articulation is your lips. 

Manner of Articulation—refers to how you produce the sound. Is it a full stop? Is a little bit of air still passing through? For example, for, with the f sound, it is not a complete stop. You still have a little bit of air passing through when your say Foster. fffffoster. 

Phonology—is the sound voiced or voiceless? That means do your vocal cords vibrate when you produce the sound. For example, what is the difference between a T and D sound? Voicing. 

I know these are complicated linguistic terms, but don’t let them frighten you. We are simply referring to where and how we are stopping air when we produce sounds.

(quick note: in this section we are focusing more on the concept of consonants to make sure you are comfortable with the basics. We will cover more difficult consonants, like the TH & the American R sound, in other sections in the course.)

Let's do this! Good luck 👍