Plosives & consonants

What are voiced consonants?
What are unvoiced consonants?
And alveolar plosives?
I do remember taking an intro to speech pathology during nursing school which talked a bit about such things, but have forgotten.

(by sidhetaba for everyone)

11 comments Add yours
  1. Billy,

    The plosives are the sounds made by making a little "explosion" of air in different parts of the mouth. "alveolar" plosives are also known as "dentals." The explosion takes place against your teeth. Unvoiced is T. Voiced is D. In the voiced version, you can feel your vocal chords vibrate. The unvoiced version is made with only air. (FYI, b/p are known as labials, because they require an explosion of air against the lips.)

    Gregg makes it easy to distinguish voiced consonants from unvoiced. The voiced symbols are long, and the corresponding unvoiced, short: g/c, d/t, j/ch, b/p, v/f, etc..

    Make sense?


  2. Thanks, Jim.   Is this general knowledge of expert shorthand writers, or is this specialized knowledge of linguists or some other branch of knowledge.   Did Dr Gregg know this, do you think, when he made up his system?   Only more questions, i'm afraid.   Thanks.

  3. You're welcome, Billy.   General Knowledge. Nice to know that being a repository of so much trivia can be of use to people.   It's a general linguistics thing. I learned about consonants when I was studying Hebrew, because they use one letter to represent either voiced or unvoiced consonants, with a dagesh to differentiate if it's not clear from context. (Beth, for example, can be pronouced "b" or "v" depending on the surrounding letters.) When I started learning shorthands apart from my original Forkner, I discovered that the length principle (or weight in Pitman) corresponds to what I had already learned in Hebrew class.   I'm sure Dr. Gregg knew all about this principle, since he used it so much in his shorthand. I'm surprised more people haven't noticed it. It sure makes the consonants easier to remember when you're learning.   Jim  

  4. Hi Billy, Jim and fellows.   All this about linguistic subject, which I preffer to say phonetics subject, was known by shorthands inventors.   Let's start saying that  what we speak is very different from what we write (especially in English), so shorthand is supposed to be a kind of writing for words pronunciation or phonetics. I say "it is supposed" because, sometimes shorthand doesn't divorce from the orthography, e.g. How do you write "sugar" in Gregg with  an S symbol or with an ISH?   There are shorthand systems where every sound has its own stroke; but Pitman, Gregg and others use one sign for similar sounds, e.g.: P – B / F – V, etc. Doing the difference with a different size or a thinner or thicker stroke.   I realized this when I studied English phonetics, but I already knew Pitman and Gregg shorthand, so it was easier for me to learn it.  This is too familiar to me, that I asume people know it.   I read, I don't remember when, that Spanish is the third language in the world where pronunciation and phonetics are almost 100% similar.   Regards,   Osvaldo    

  5. Osvaldo   It's very unfortunate that most Canadians and Americans don't have a clue about linguistic concepts. As you know, English is not even remotely spelled as it is pronouonced; and regional dialects change the pronunciation further.   It's always good to be challenged.   Thanks   Billy

  6. I, as an American, answer this question to the best of mine ability.

    The oral system is composed of several parts; these parts work together to produce speech. There are several kinds of interaction between mouth organs. The plosive is the small puff of air that occurs after completely closing the cavity at one point. The fricative is the sound of turbulence between the mouth organs. The nasal is the closing of the mouth cavity with the larynx vibrating still. The approximant is when the two mouth organs approach and don't touch, causing less than a fricative, but basically a short vowel sound (like English r, y). The lateral approximant is when the middle of the tongue touches the roof of the mouth and the air moves around the sides (like L and Spanish LL). The other types are less important and only occur in select languages like Punjabi (i.e. implosives, etc.). 🙂

    When the two lips work together, the sound is called "bilabial." The bilabial plosives are b voiced, and p unvoiced. The fricative produced here is heard voiced in Spanish v/b in the middles of words, and voiced in Japanese f as in Fuji (this sound is like blowing).

    When the bottom lip works with the top row of teeth, it is called "labiodental." The labiodental fricatives are f unvoiced and v voiced. The labiodental nasal is found in the m in emphasis.

    When the action is between the tongue and the teeth, it is called "interdental." This is th unvoiced (as in "thin") and dh voiced (as in "other").

    When the action is between the tongue and the alveolar ridge behind the teeth, it is called "alveolar." The plosives are d voiced and t unvoiced. The fricatives are z voiced and s unvoiced. The approximant is r. The nasal is n. The tap is like the Spanish "ere" (like the tt in American pottery) and the trill is like the Spanish "erre."

    When the action is between the tongue and right past the alveolar ridge, it is called "postalveolar." The postalveolar fricatives are sh and zh.

    When it is between the middle of the tongue and the palate, it is called "palatal." The plosive is like the ch in Vietnamese "chi" unvoiced and like the Slovak d'. 🙂 The fricatives are, unvoiced, "ch" in German "ich;" voiced like "ich" voiced. 😛 The approximant is the English y sound, [ j ].

    When the action is between the tip of the tongue and the palate, it is called "retroflex." This is not encountered in English. Hindi uses the retroflex plosives in t's, th's, d's, and dh's when a dot is underneath the transliterations of the letters.

    When the action is between the back of the tongue and the soft palate, known as the velum, it is called "velar." The plosives are g voiced and k unvoiced. The fricatives are kh (as in Scottish loch) unvoiced and gh (as in Afghanistan or Spanish "haga") voiced.

    When the action is between the back of the tongue and the uvula, it is called "uvular." The uvular plosives are q unvoiced (as in Iraq) and the other is just that voiced. 😉 The uvular fricatives are much more gutteral kh's, like when Americans imitate Germans when unvoiced. Voiced, they are the common French R. The nasal is like the French n in bon.

    When the action is at the very very back of the oral cavity, it is called "pharyngeal", since it occurs at the pharynx. I believe this fricative is in Hebrew.

    The most gutteral sound for which there is phonetic notation is the "glottal" category. The glottal fricative is the English h. The glottal stop is like the space in "uh oh". 🙂

    I hope that was a worthy run-down of speech terms.

  7. I have a confession, sidhetaba, regarding my age.  The truth is that I am 17 at the moment and shall turn 18 in August. 🙂   KevinWal, there is not a huge need to learn many languages for a greater feel of phonetics, but rather one should have a great feel of phonetics before studying many languages.  What I just described were the relevant consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet (albeit from memory).  You can find the chart at, I believe.  There are many more sounds in it.  I didn't mention the velar nasal, "ng" or the palatal nasal like the Spanish "ñ".  Neither did I mention the velar approximant, which is notated like an Greek mu with an extra hump.  It is the sound of w when the lips remain wide open.  The labio-velar approximant is w, since it requires the coöperation of the velar approximant and the close rounding of the lips.  This, when held, is actually an [ u ], as you know from studying Gregg.  The same goes for the English y sound, which is just a short ee.  The r, since it is an approximant, is basically a vowel.  There is no high turbulence that would make it a consonant, but rather it is simply considered a consonant by the language.  For instance, in the word learn, there is only one vowel present—the r. (Of course, the English people pronounce it [ l琯:n ], with a more relaxed e).   There are also several allophones in our language.  For instance, the l at the end of coal is different from the l at the beginning of little.  The former is referred to as a velarized lateral approximant, which basically means the back of the tongue is raised while the l is made.  Audibly, the difference is the overtone.   The overtone is the only thing that causes speech to be understandable.  Each vowel produces a specific overtone and is done either with rounded or unrounded lips.  The overtones range from the open [ i ] as in marine to the closed [ u ] as in suit.  The [ i ] is the highest (unrounded, but rounded it is like the Anglo-Saxon y vowel), and when the tension of the tongue is released slightly, the [ I ] sound is produced, as in it (and when rounded, it becomes like the German .) For a full chart of vowels, check out omniglot's IPA page.   On an unrelated note, the o in potter is different from the a in father because of the rounding of the lips.  In the o in potter, the lips are rounded.  Learning the IPA is the greatest guide to speaking other languages.   I forgot to mention in my first post the sounds ch and j.  Phonetically, these sounds are consonant blends of the alveolar plosive and the postalveolar fricative.  That is, t-sh makes the ch sound, and when voiced, it becomes d-zh, the j sound.   —Andrew

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