What makes one consonant different from another?Producing a consonant involves making the vocal tract narrower at some location than it usually is. We call this narrowing a constriction. Which consonant you're pronouncing depends on where in the vocal tract the constriction is and how narrow it is. It also depends on a few other things, such as whether the vocal folds are vibrating and whether air is flowing through the nose.
We classify consonants along three major dimensions:
- place of articulation
- manner of articulation
For example, for the sound [d]:
- Place of articulation = alveolar. (The narrowing of the vocal tract involves the tongue tip and the alveolar ridge.)
- Manner of articulation = oral stop. (The narrowing is complete -- the tongue is completely blocking off airflow through the mouth. There is also no airflow through the nose.)
- Voicing = voiced. (The vocal folds are vibrating.)