Tom’s Homemade* Consonant Chart

{+, -}

What consonant sounds do you make?
Each cell in the table below represents a type of consonant that can be either voiced (i.e. with vibrating vocal folds) or voiceless (no vibration). Using ‘+’ for voiced and ‘-‘ for voiceless, think of your own speech & mark down as many consonants as you can identify. You get bonus points if you can also indicate other tongue positions and/or nasality and laterality (see reverse for more info).

1 Stop Affricate





Fricative Trill Flap/tap Approximant







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Using the chart
The goal of this chart is to provide a system that you can use to categorize the consonant sounds that you make & that you hear other people make. The numbers (1~10) in the diagram refer to some of the most common places where consonants are made in the vocal tract. The lower-case letters (a~f) indicate parts of the tongue that are involved in making consonants - a consonant is often a combination of part of the tongue interacting somehow with another place in the vocal tract. The dark circles marked ‘L’ & ‘N’ indicate different ways that air can pass through the vocal tract: ‘lateral’ (L) means that air is allowed to pass over the sides of the tongue, & ‘nasal’ (N) means that air is allowed to pass through the nose. Another parameter that we use to describe consonants is whether the vocal folds (or ‘cords’ - #10 in the diagram) vibrate (+) or don’t vibrate (-). Manner refers to how air is allowed to flow out of the mouth. Air is completely blocked for stops, and flows freely for approximants. Fricatives have very narrow passages for air to flow out of, & make a hissing noise when the vocal folds aren’t vibrating. Affricates are stops that get ‘released’ into fricatives. Trills involve airflow coming out of the mouth such that it causes something to vibrate. Flaps/taps involve some part of the tongue only very briefly hitting another place in the vocal tract like a rubber ball & bouncing away. The convention for naming consonant sounds in linguistics is to describe the above features starting from vocal fold vibration & ending with manner: Vocal folds → (Active place) → Passive place → Nasality or Laterality → Manner






What does a ‘+c4N stop’ sound like?? Experiment w/your voice & try to figure it out! Jargon (for anyone interested in researching more deeply)
Symbol + 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 a b c d e f Jargon (adjectives) voiced voiceless labial / bilabial labiodental dental / interdental alveolar post-alveolar / alveopalatal palatal velar uvular pharyngeal glottal sub-laminal apical laminal anterior-dorsal posterior-dorsal radical / epiglottal Explanation When the vocal folds (a.k.a. ‘cords’) vibrate When the vocal folds don’t vibrate involves (both) lips involves lips & teeth involves the teeth involves the ‘gum ridge’ just behind the upper front teeth involves the area behind the gum ridge, towards the front of the mouth involves the roof of the mouth, or ‘hard palate’ involves the ‘soft palate’ towards the back of the mouth involves the little ‘punching bag’ that hangs behind the soft palate involves the space located behind the root of the tongue involves the glottis - the opening between the vocal folds involves the underside of the front, or lamina, of the tongue involves the tongue apex, or tip involves the upper front part of the tongue (a.k.a. the tongue ‘blade’) involves the middle part of the tongue body involves the rear of the ‘dorsum,’ or back of the tongue involves the tongue root, or ‘radix,’ & the flap of cartilage attached to it call the ‘epiglottis’

*This chart represents just one way of organizing & talking about consonants. If you’re really keen, you can also take a look at the International Phonetic Association’s chart that also includes all of the phonetic symbols used to represent the different sounds.