Discuss the criteria for classifying consonants and describe them in terms of their production

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Consonants are sounds produced with the vocal tract restricted or completely closed. Consonants are classified in contrast to vowels, sounds produced with the vocal tract completely open. Consonants have two primary classifying characteristics: voice onset time, and location. Voice onset time refers to the amount of time that vocalized sound is emitted. Here, consonants share the customary "long" and "short" classifications with vowels. Short consonants, such as "K" or "T," are vocalized for a relatively short amount of time. We emit long consonants, such as "SH" or "M" for longer periods of time. The place where articulation occurs is another major classifying characteristic. Articulation can occur between the lips (as in "B" or "P"), at the back of the throat (as in "K"), on the soft palette (as in "L"), or against the back of the gums (as in "N" and "T"). Different classifying systems use numerous secondary traits to further classify consonants. The International Phonetic Alphabet, for example, indexes consonants on he basis of voice onset time, location, and five other characteristics.
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are plosive consonant sounds—p, t, k, b, d, and g—which, in order to make, we must briefly stop the flow of air using our lips, teeth, or palate, and then suddenly release the air.

There are also fricative consonant sounds, such as v, f, h, and th; these are produced by the friction of our breath being pushed through a narrow opening that we create in our mouths.

Then there are also affricates, which combine the plosive with the fricative when they share the same place of articulation in the mouth; Two examples include: ch in "chair" or j in "jar."

There are nasal consonant sounds as well, sounds like m and n, which are produced by pushing sound through our noses.

There are also approximant consonant sounds, so named because they kind of sound like vowels: the y sound in "yes," the l sound in "like," or the r sound in "right."