An ELT Glossary : Manner of Articulation

Definition : The way that speech sounds are formed. Manner of articulation is one of the three descriptors used to describe consonants, the others being voicing and place of articulation

In English the following types of manner of articulation are most important for consonant formation:

  • plosive/stop consonants : when a plosive is formed the two articulators briefly block the passage of air from the lungs completely. The air builds up behind the articulators, and is then suddenly released. Examples : /p/ /b/ /t/ /d/ /k/ /g/

  • fricative consonants : the two articulators move close together leaving only a small passage through which the airflow is forced, causing the air molecules to "bump together" and creating audible friction. Examples: /s/ /z/ /ʃ/ /ʒ/  /h/

  • affricates : an affricate consists of a homorganic plosive and africative - ie a plosive followed immediately by a fricative made in the same place. Examples: /ʧ/ /ʤ/

  • laterals : when a lateral is made, the centre of the tongue meets the roof of the mouth but air is allowed to pass along the sides. Example : /l/

  • nasal consonants: a nasal consonant is formed by blocking the passage of air out of the mouth, but allowing it to pass through the nose. Examples : /m/ /n/ /ŋ/

  • approximants/semi-vowels : These, as their alternative names imply, are sounds which are neither fully vowels nor consonants. From the point of view of manner of articulation, they are similar to vowels in that there is almost no restriction of the airflow as it passes through the mouth. Examples : /w/ /r/ /j/ /l/

In certain varieties of English, other categories of manner of articulation may be used. For example, many speakers of American English use a flap (or tap) consonant rather than a plosive in forming the /t/ phoneme. Flap sounds are similar to plosives, but the articulators meet too briefly to allow a build up of air. In the alveolar flap [ɾ] that serves as the /t/ allophone, the tongue is raised to hit the alveolar ridge very quickly.