How do we Make consonants?
There are three criteria, or parameters, needed when we define a consonant.
As we have already seen, it is important to distinguish between voiced and voiceless sounds. This parameter is called VOICE. (+ or -)
In the minimal pair 'fat/vat' the first consonant /f/ is V-, whereas in the second word it is V+.
All phonemes of English will be either V- or V+.
The upper articulators concern us now.
The next parameter is called PLACE.
The first place is where the lips are.
Any sounds made by both lips are called Bilabial sounds, and many languages produce sounds using their lips. In English, these are the consonants /p, b, m/. We can say that /p/ is a voiceless bilabial consonant, and /b/ is a voiced bilabial consonant. As /b/ and /m/ are both voiced and bilabial we will need more information to differentiate between them.
Staying with the parameter of place we can use our bottom lip with our top teeth to make the sounds /f, v/ which we describe as Labiodental consonants. Can you work out which one is the voiced consonant?
Moving backwards into the mouth we find the Dental consonants.
Can you feel the small ridge just behind your top teeth? This is called the Alveolar ridge, and here is where Alveolar consonants are formed. There are several alveolar consonants in English.
If you roll your tongue back, you will be able to feel the front part of the roof of your mouth. This is the Hard Palate where Palatal consonants are produced This would give you /j/ which we need for the word 'young'.
You won't be able to feel your soft palate, or velum, unless you stick your finger into the back of your mouth. /k, g/ are among the consonants known as Velar.
Hanging down at the back is a little fleshy flap called the uvula. French is a language where you might hear sounds made here. Just think of the French rolled 'r'!