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In articulatory phonetics, consonants are generally defined as a set of speech sounds that are produced by partial or complete constriction of the vocal tract. Vowels, on the other hand, tend to be produced with a relatively open vocal tract. Consonants also differ from vowels in that consonants are aperiodic (i.e., noisy) and less sonorant (i.e., do not carry as far as vowels). In speech, consonants are often described in terms of their place of articulation, manner of articulation, and voicing.

Place of Articulation

Consonant sounds are often partly described in terms of where the point of constriction occurs in the vocal tract. Bilabial consonants are made my compressing the lips together (i.e., /m b p/),

Place of articulation is of particular relevance to people who speechread. It is also relevant to cuers since some aspects may be revealed in the non-manual, mouthshapes that accompany cues. 

Manner of Articulation


The feature of voicing is

Distinctive Features

The unique combination of place (where), manner (how), and voicing (whether or not the vocal folds vibrate) makes each consonant acoustically distinctly identifiable.

Cued Speech

In Cued Speech, consonant phonemes are represented by handshapes.


Advocacy and Instruction

Hearing Bias. Historical view of cuers being hearing parents. Relying on or teaching features of speech.


In the English alphabet, there are 21 consonant letters: Bb, Cc, Dd, Ff, Gg, Hh, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, Pp, Qq, Rr, Ss, Tt, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Zz. The letter Yy is considered a consonant in words like yellow and yam. It is also sometimes a vowel as in buy, try, tryst.

See Also