Chapter 3 The Consonants of English

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Chapter 3 The Consonants of English

  • Place of Articulation: (not only) the roof of the mouth (but also) + the movements of lips + different parts of the tongue

CD 3.1 [p, t, k] (bilabial, alveolar, velar) [hhh

  • Manner of Articulation: vocal organs’ movement + air stream shaping

CD 3.2 [d, n, s] [hhh


CD 3.3

  • Oral Stops (Table 3.1)

1 2 3 4 5 6

pie buy a buy spy nap nab

tie die a dye sty mat mad

kye guy a guy sky knack nag

1. voiceless, aspirated: [pha, tha, kha(Fig 3.1, Noise Burst-Aspiration-Vowel Onset)

2. 3. voiced, unaspirated (Fig 3.1, Noise Burst-Vowel Onset)

4. voiced, unaspirated (Fig 3.2 Fricative Noise - t-closure - Noise Burst - Vowel Onset)

 no opposition between /sp/ and /sb/, /st/ and /sd/, /sk/ and /sg/

CD 3.4

5. voiceless Vs. 6. nearly voiceless (Fig 3.3)

 The major difference between 4 and 5 is the vowel length, not the voicing.(Fig 3.3)

CD 3.5

Take a cap now” vs. “take a cab now.”:

(i) The total length is about the same on both sentences. The vowel in “cab” is longer

than “cap”. Therefore, the consonant “p” is longer than the consonant “b”.

(ii) The /p/ and /b/ sounds are unexploded/unreleased (i.e. lips closed) at the end of a phrase.

Unexploded: [  ] [k

The rule is the same if the next word begins with a stop.

“the cat pushed” [ kt pt]

“apt” [pt], “act” [kt]

“white teeth” [wat ti, “why teeth” [wa ti

“It’s a big day” [ts  b de], (Italian) “It’s a bigga day” [ts  b de]

  • Glottal Stop: [] /t/ + syllabic /n/ beaten[ bin] , kitten [ kn],

Yes: [ h] No: [ ]

Yes: [mhm] No: [ mm]

beaten [bin]

kitten [kn]

fatten [ fn]

CD 3.6

rap [rp], [rp], [rp], [r]

rat [rt], [rt], [rt], [r]

rack [rk], [rk], [rk], [r]

  • Nasal Plosion: a voiced stop + a nasal (Fig3.4)

The air pressure built up behind the stop closure is released through the nose by the lowering of the soft palate (the velum) for the nasal consonant.

CD 3.7

hidden [hdn] (with nasal plosion) hidden [hdn] (without nasal plosion)

sadden [sdn] sadden [sdn]

sudden [sdn] sudden [sdn]

leaden [ldn] leaden [ldn]
Summary: Fig.3.5 (Q: What are lateral stops?)

  • Homorganic: when two sounds have the same place of articulation, e.g. [d] and [n]

*For nasal plosion to occur within a word, there must be a stop followed by a

homorganic nasal.

[d] + [n]

[ p]/[b] + [m]

[k]/[g] + []

CD 3.8

/opn/  [opm] (“Open my door, please.”)

/svn/  [ sbm]

/ sm/  [ smbm]

/ kptn/  [ kpm]

/ ben/  [ be]

  • Lateral Plosion: when [t] or [d] occurs before a homorganic lateral [l]

The air pressure behind the stop closure is released by the lowering of the sides of the tongue.

little []

ladle []

  • Tap (Flap): the tongue tip for /t/ is thrown against the alveolar ridge.

CD 3.9

city [si]

better [br]

writer [rar]

latter, ladder: [l] (no distinction, but “latter” may have a shorter vowel)

  • Nasals

  1. [m] and [n] are sometimes syllabic (together with non-nasal [r, l])

prism [przm], prison [przn],

  1. [] never begins a word, and it cannot be syllabic except in phrases like “Jack and

Kate” [dk  ket] or in some unusual pronunciations such as “bacon” [bek].

Another way to consider the different status of [] is that it is a sequence of the

phonemes /n/ + /g/ or /n/ + /k/, e.g. sing /sng/ , sink /snk]

Rule 1: /n/  [] / when it occurs before /k/ and /g/

Rule 2: /k/ and /g/   (deleted) / when they occur after // at the end of either a

word (as in “sing”) or a stem followed by a suffix such as “-er” or “-ing” (as in

“singer” or “singing”).

Compare: singer /s

finger /fg/

Why is the /g/ dropped in “singer”, but retained in “finger”?

(Hint: Syllabic Separation)

  • Affricates: a sequence of a stop followed by a homorganic fricative

[t in “eighth” or [ts] in “cats”  given no special status in English phonology

Affricate phonemes in English: /t/, /d--The only affricates in English that can occur

at both the beginning and the end of words.


  • Fricatives:

The similarities between fricatives and stops:

CD 3.10

  1. As in stops, the vowels in voiceless fricatives are shorter than those in voiced fricatives. strife vs. strive; teeth vs. teethe; rice vs. rise; mission vs. vision

  2. Stops and fricatives are the only English consonants that can contrast by voicedness.

  3. A voiceless stop at the end of a syllable (as in “hit”) is longer than the corresponding voiced stop (as in “hid”). Likewise, the voiceless fricatives are longer than their voiced counterparts in pairs such as “safe; save”, “lace; laze”.

CD 3.11

  1. Like stops, voiced fricative at the end of a word, as in “prove, smooth”, “choose, rouge” are voiced throughout their articulation only when they are followed by another voiced sound (e.g. “prove it”). They are not fully voiced while followed by a voiceless sound (e.g. “prove two times two is four”) or by a pause at the end of a phrase (e.g. “try to improve”).

  • stops , fricatives : Obstruents

  • Approximants /w, r, j, l/:

/l/, /j/, /w/: voiceless after /p/, /t/, /k/

“play” [ple], “pew” [pju], “twice” [twa]

CD 3.12

/l/: velarization (the arching upward of the back of the tongue) at the end of a

word. “leaf” [lif] vs. “feel” [fil ]
British Speakers: /l/ velarized when it is word final or before a consonant

/l/ not velarized when it is before a vowel

“feeling” vs. “Don’t kill dogs”

“field” vs. “Don’t kill it”

In many accents of English, /h/ only occur before stressed vowels or before the approximant /j/, e.g. “hue”[hju].

Some speakers of English also sound /h/ before /w/, so they contrast “which” [hw] and “witch” [w]. (The [w] after /h/ is voiceless and sometimes transcribed as [: “which” [h], “whether” [h


  1. Consonants are longer when at the end of a phrase.

“bib, did, don, nod”

  1. Voiceless stops /p, t, k/ are aspirated when they are syllable initial.

“pip, test, kick” []

  1. Voiced obstruents (= stops and fricatives) (that is, //) are voiced through only a small part of articulation when they occur at the end of an utterance or before a voiceless sound.

/v/ in “ try to improve”, /d/ in “add two”.

  1. Voiced stops and affricates (/) are voiceless when syllable initial, except when immediately preceded by a voiced sound.

  2. The approximants // are at least partially voiceless when they occur after initial //.

“play, twin, cue” []

  1. Voiceless stops // are unaspirated in words.

“spew, stew, skew”

  1. Voiceless stops and affricates // are longer than the corresponding voiced

stops and affricates // when at the end of a syllable.

“cap” vs. “cab”, “back” vs. “bag”

  1. Stops are unexploded when they occur before another stop in words.

“apt” [”rubbed” [

  1. In many accents of English, syllable final // are accompanied by a glottal


“tip, pit, kick” [

  1. In many accents of English, // is replaced by a glottal when it occurs before an alveolar nasal in the same word.

“beaten, kitten" []

  1. Nasals are syllabic at the end of a word when immediately after an obstruent.

“leaden, chasm” [

  1. The lateral // is syllabic at the end of a word when immediately after a consonant.

“paddle, whistle, kennel, channel” 

(Note: “barrel” [], but “snarl” []. The latter // has to be considered as part of the vowel.)

(12a) The liquids  are syllabic at the end of a word when immediately after a consonant.

“razor, hammer” []

  1. Alveolar stops become voiced taps (flaps) when they occur between two vowels,

the second of which is unstressed.

“fatty, data, daddy” [fi, dd

(13a) Alveolar stops and alveolar nasal plus stop sequences become voiced taps when they occur between two vowels, the second of which is unstressed.

“many” [m

(Note: In a sequence of an alveolar nasal followed by a stop, many speakers of American English drop the stop, resulting in (13a) to be applied.

“painter” [pe] “winter = winner, panting = panning”)

  1. Alveolar consonants become dentals before dental consonants.

“tenth, at this” [t

  1. Alveolar stops are reduced or omitted when between two consonants.

“most people” as [

(Note: Is the // lost or inaudible?)

  1. A homorganic voiceless stop may be inserted after a nasal before a voiceless

fricative followed by an unstressed vowel in the same word. (Epenthesis) “something, youngster” []

  1. A consonant is shortened when it is before an identical consonant.

“big game, top post”

CD 3.13

(Note: This consonant is shortened, not dropped.

Compare: “stray tissue, straight issue, straight tissue”)

  1. Velar stops become more front as the following vowel in the same syllable

becomes more front.

/k/ in “cap, kept, kit, key” [

// in “gap, get, give, geese”[

(19) The lateral // is velarized when after a vowel or before a consonant at the end of

a word.

“life vs. file” [vs.”clap vs. talc” [vs.”
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