Key Terms in a Consonant Classification Chart

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Classification charts can be a valuable tool, but only if they are understood. In this lesson, teachers will learn about the key terms in a consonant classification chart.

Classifying Consonants

Many teachers know that the use of charts can be a great way to visualize, assess, and understand information. When it comes to language, a consonant classification chart allows one to see how the essential building blocks of spoken language are assembled. However, simply looking at a chart is different than understanding it. A consonant classification chart can be difficult to understand unless, of course, you have a solid understanding of the key terms it contains.

Typically, consonant classification charts show where in the mouth the sound is coming from, or the place of articulation, and how the sound is made, or the manner of articulation. A thorough review of the following key terms should enable you to view any consonant classification chart with confidence and to explain the information to others.

Place of Articulation

Place of articulation refers primarily to where the tongue and lips are placed to form a specific consonant sound. Even minuscule changes in the positioning of the tongue, lips, and teeth can significantly alter the sound that is produced.

  • Bilabial
    • Bilabial articulation requires both the upper and lower lip. Examples include:
      • beep, map, pop
  • Labiodental
    • Labiodental articulation occurs when the lower lip touches the upper teeth. For example:
      • fight, finish, vine, varnish
  • Dental interdental
    • Dental interdental articulation happens with the lips open and the tongue moving between the upper and lower teeth. For example:
      • the, this, there
  • Alveolar
    • Alveolar articulation occurs when the tongue touches behind the upper teeth. Examples include:
      • not, dot, nine
  • Palatal
    • Palatal articulation takes place when the tongue is used against the front roof of the mouth (hard palate). For instance:
      • fell, treat, cheap
  • Velar
    • Velar articulation happens when the tongue makes contact with the roof of the back of the mouth (soft palate). For example:
      • ring, goose, back
  • Glottal
    • Glottal articulation occurs when sound is made with the vocal cords. For instance:
      • hot, hit

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