Consonant Charts: the 3 in 1 Deal
Remember how useful the vowel chart was in making sense of the vowel sounds of your target language? Well you’ll be happy to know that consonant charts can be just as helpful (yay for charts!)
A consonant chart lists all of the consonant sounds for a given language while neatly organizing them by place of articulation, manner of articulation and phonation.
Below you will find a consonant chart of English containing all of the phonemes we discussed. While reviewing the IPA symbols, take note of the following:
- The columns are labeled by place or articulation.
- The rows are labeled by manner of articulation.
- When two consonants are next to each other in the same cell (i.e. they share the same place and manner of articulation), the consonant on the left is voiceless and the consonant on the right is voiced.
Modification of consonant chart on Wikipedia Article for “English Phonology”
Sometimes it can be confusing calling a consonant sound by its symbol, especially for sounds like /ʃ/, whose name nobody remembers. So the best way to call a consonant is to list its three features.
The convention for naming a consonant sound is as follows:
[phonation] [place of articulation] [manner of articulation]
So for example:
- The /f/ sound is called – voiceless labiodental fricative.
- The /ʒ/ sound (from vision) is called – voiced post-alveolar fricative
- The /p/ sound is called – voiceless bilabial stop
See? These big phonetic terms aren’t so scary once you break them down. The IPA symbols are pretty simple to learn too once you isolate the ones that are different from English writing:
- /θ/ – voiceless dental fricative – “th” sound from “theater” and “thick”
- /ð/ – voiced dental fricative – “th” sound from “then” and “rather”
- /ʃ/ – voiceless post-alveolar fricative – “sh” sound from “ship” and “ash”
- /ʒ/ – voiced post-alveolar fricative – “s” sound from “measure” and “vision”
- /tʃ/ – voiceless post-alveolar affricate – “ch” sound from “child” and “pouch”
- /dʒ/ – voiced post-alveolar affricate – “j” sound from “john” and “g” sound from “vintage”
- /ŋ/ – velar nasal (voiced is redundant because all nasal sounds are voiced, otherwise you’re just blowing snot-rockets out your nose). – “n” sound from “going” and “flunk”.
- /?/ – glottal stop – dropped consonant sound from phrases like “wha(t) time is it”
Also, there are a few other discrepancies between IPA and English writing that may trip you up. I list them below:
- The /j/ (voiced palatal approximant) is usually represented in English with the letter “y” in words such as “young” and “yard”. It is NOT sound that ‘j’ usually represents in English writing (the ‘j’ in “job” is actually a /dʒ/)
- The English letter ‘g’ is sometimes used to represent the /dʒ/ sound too, as is the case with words like “gin” and “genuine”. Just remember that that IPA symbol /g/ ALWAYS represents the voiced velar stop from words like “guy” and “guilt”.
- The letter ‘c’ in English can be either /k/ sound as it is in “cat” and “car” or an /s/ sound as it is in “cycle and “cinder”
- The letter ‘s’ in English is often used to represent the /z/ sound and NOT the /s/, as is the case in words like “prison” and “chasm”
Remember when I told you how the English writing thing messes everything up? Don’t let it mess up your understanding of the true nature of sound. Trust in the IPA and the basic principles of naming consonants and you won’t get confused when studying new languages.
For today’s wrap-up exercise, name each of the consonants below and list one word (from any language) that contains this sound (try not to scroll up and cheat).
Stay tuned for the next lesson, where we get more in depth on my method of how to build up these sounds with Flow Training.