From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An obstruent (/ˈɒbstrənt/ OB-stroo-ənt) is a speech sound such as [k], [d͡ʒ], or [f] that is formed by obstructing airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorants, which have no such obstruction and so resonate.[1] All obstruents are consonants, but sonorants include vowels as well as consonants.


Obstruents are subdivided into:

  • plosives (oral stops), such as [p, t, k, b, d, ɡ], with complete occlusion of the vocal tract, often followed by a release burst;
  • fricatives, such as [f, ɸ, θ, s, ʃ, x, v, β, z, ʒ, ɣ], with limited closure, not stopping airflow but making it turbulent;
  • affricates, which begin with complete occlusion but then release into a fricative-like release, such as [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ].[2]


Obstruents are often prototypically voiceless, but voiced obstruents are common. This contrasts with sonorants, which are prototypically voiced and only rarely phonemically voiceless.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gussenhoven, Carlos; Haike, Jacobs. Understanding Phonology, Fourth Edition, Routledge, 2017
  2. ^ Zsiga, Elizabeth. The Sounds of Language: An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  3. ^ Blevins, Juliette (2018). "Evolutionary phonology and the life cycle of voiceless sonorants". Typological Studies in Language. 121: 31–58. doi:10.1075/tsl.121.01ble.