Consonants and Vowels
What are Consonants and Vowels?
While studying the sound system or phonology of a language at a segmental level, we differentiate between two kinds of speech sounds, i.e. consonants and vowels.
Consonants are distinguished on the basis of three features:
- the manner of occurrence of this constriction,
- the place in the vocal tract where this happens,
- and whether the sound production involves vibration in the vocal cords leading to voicing.
Vowels, on the other hand, are classified on the basis of the following:
- height (high and low),
- place (front and back),
- and rounding of lips (rounded and unrounded),
Besides these, the length of the vowels (short and long) and vowel quality are also important criteria for their classification.
There are also cases where the boundaries of the definitions of consonants and vowels blur. For example, in the case of liquids and semi vowels. The phonemic analysis of a language involves examining of these individual phonemes or speech sounds. It also includes looking at the way in which they combine with other phonemes within the words of a language (morpho-phonetics). Or across word boundaries during actual speech.
Difference Between Consonants and Vowels in Phonetics
Consonants and vowels can be distinguished on the basis of their articulatory, acoustic and auditory properties. We list the following major differences between Consonants and Vowels.
Consonants are those sounds during the production of which there is partial or complete constriction somewhere in the vocal tract. Vowels, on the other hand, are those sounds during the production of which there is comparatively little or no constriction, leading to an open configuration of the vocal tract.
Consonants can be voiced or voiceless. Apart from liquids, glides and nasal consonants, which are always voiced, consonants generally come in pairs of voiced and voiceless. For example, /p/ is voiceless, bilabial plosive whereas /b/ is its voiced counterpart. On the other hand, all vowels are voiced.
Acoustically, vowels are more prominent than consonants. Even at low frequency sounds, vowels are more intense than the consonants. This also has an affect on the auditory properties of the vowels.
In terms of syllable structure, vowels form the nucleus of the syllable. The consonants, on the other hand, occupy the onset or coda position. Certain consonants like glides and liquids, however, can also form the nucleus. They are also known as semi-vowels.