From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

±ghhghghghghghfgftftftfyfgfgfhf== Foreign sounds ==

The chart showing the consonants of English includes a voiced bilabial fricative, a voiced velar fricative, and a palatal nasal. As far as I know, these are not part of standard English, and nothing else I've looked at lists them (see, for example, the chart under English language). Josh Cherry 21:53, 22 Oct 2003 (UTC)

This should either be consonants in English (and those three removed), or a larger set - but saying what they are. As it stands it is incorrect. Secretlondon 21:59, Oct 22, 2003 (UTC)

OK, I yanked 'em. Josh Cherry 03:53, 23 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Wouldn't spoken examples of the consonants be nice?[edit]

Wouldn't it be nice if there were sound clips with examples of the consonants after those sentences: "* The manner of articulation is the method that the consonant is articulated, such as ***nasal***, ***stop***, or ***approximant***. ...

  • The airstream mechanism is how the air moves through the vocal tract during articulation. Most languages have exclusively pulmonic egressive consonants, but ejectives, clicks, and implosives use different mechanisms."

I'm sure scientifically the article is sound but it would make it a little bit more lively for non-linguistic people. Paulus/laudaka (add me to your YIM/AIM/ICQ/M$N M contact list if you like!) Laudaka's talk page 11:42, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)

prism isnt the best of examples of a syllabic consonant, as it's one of those english words where even native speakers can't agree as to the number of syllables (some say 2, some say 1)

Exit 05:44, 16 July 2005 (UTC)

Huh, I'd say prism is a bad example of a syllabic consonant because it unambiguously has a nonsyllabic consonant: the word is pronounced [ˈprɪzəm]. Any confusion is due to the spelling. User:Angr 15:29, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
Not everywhere! I say [ˈprɪzm] – I don't pronounce it with a schwa. garik 11:12, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

W as a semivowel[edit]

I've begun to believe that W is a semivowel, being that it is simply a dipthong like Y is. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Huh? Well, yes, /w/ can be considered a semivowel (and is mentioned at that article). However, I think your understanding is a little muddled. First of all, a letter of the alphabet can't be a diphthong or, if we're being strict, a vowel, semi- or otherwise—neither concept really make sense except with regard to sound. Of course, this is a strict definition: a letter can represent a semivowel or diphthong in some context. But in any case, /w/ clearly isn't a diphthong. A sound can't be both a diphthong and a semivowel. garik 11:20, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Accurate Definition of A Consonant[edit]

"In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized by a closure or stricture of the vocal tract sufficient to cause audible turbulence."

This is not an accurate definition of a consonant, as it excludes obstruent sonorants (like n or m). It also fails to take into account the fact that the vocal cords are part of the vocal tract and all voiced sounds (including vowels) involve stricture of the glottis. Here is my amendment:

"In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a sound in spoken language that is characterized either by complete closure (or stricture) of the upper vocal tract or by stricture of the upper vocal tract that is sufficient to cause audible turbulence. The upper vocal tract is that part of the vocal tract that lies above the larynx."

Eroica 11:49, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Much better. Stops in general do not cause turbulence; [p, t, k] are identical during their hold in being completely silent. kwami 17:56, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Added to into. However, turbulence is more a characteristic of fricatives than other consonants, so I took that word out. kwami —Preceding comment was added at 18:04, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
Your definition excludes [h] and [ʔ], so I'm taking out "upper". However, that leaves vowels with various phonations defined as consonants. kwami (talk) 11:39, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

The inadequate Latin "meaning" of consonant and the etymological fallacy[edit]

Hi there. While there may (and may not) be some historical (etymological) basis for this explanation of the "meaning" of consonant which is given in the current second paragraph, this is not the meaning of the present-day word consonant. The paragraph in question, as it stands (but not for long :~)) reads:

The word consonant comes from Latin and means "sounding with" or "sounding together," the idea being that consonants don't sound on their own, but occur only with a nearby vowel, which is the case in Latin. However, this conception is not adequate, since in languages such as Nuxálk, consonants may occur without any vowels.

(I actually have strong doubts about this interpretation of the original meaning of "consonant" -- It is not even original to Latin, but is a loan translation from a Greek term coined by a fellow named ... What was it? -- Ah yes, Dionysius Thrax, first-century Greek grammarian and author of the Tékhnē Grammatiké or "Art of Writing", from which we get the word grammar. Not that it's worth arguing about.)

I would suggest a modified definition for consonant in the opening paragraph of the article, to include something along the lines of, "any segment which does not serve as the nucleus of a syllable"; in fact, I think I'll modify the opening paragraph myself. I am removing the above (current, soon-to-be-former) second paragraph, which -- Please Note, I say with the sincerest respect for whomever wrote it -- really has nothing to do with the modern definition of consonant. (The paragraph, as it stands, appears only to provide an opportunity to display some special knowledge of Nuxálk. -- While that's okay, it doesn't belong in such a front-and-center location in the present article.) While the note about Nuxálk certainly makes for an interesting observation, I strongly suggest it be restored outside the main discussion of consonant -- perhaps parenthetically -- and that it refer appropriately to the Nuxálk article. I would additionally note that depending on one's background in Linguistics -- Generative vs. Anthropological; European-oriented vs. Afro-Asiatic [i.e. "Hamito-Semitic"], Native American, Micronesian, etc., etc., ... -- the very definition of consonant may be up for grabs.

I would argue that the point being made here, which I am removing, and the very similar point which is spelled out in some detail in the article on Nuxálk -- which I am leaving alone -- is really only valid from a "traditional" Euro-centric perspective, namely where vowels are defined in such a way as excludes other syllabic resonants and even syllabic fricatives, which in some, perfectly acceptable, languages, do serve as vowels, i.e. as syllable nuclei. In a more "traditional" Euro-centric conception vowels tend to be thought of in such a way that one might be tempted to make an exhaustive list of them: e.g., /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/, /æ/, /ö/, /ü/ and a few others. A more flexible definition of vowel vs. consonant would not lead to such a list of acknowledged vowels, but would recognize that a vowel is any segment which serves as the nucleus of a syllable.

In a more global, less Euro-centric view, languages which are arbitrarily considered "exotic" by the European tradition are well understood to include various resonants and even fricatives as syllable nuclei. To the person who wrote this paragraph: I think I agree with your real point, as I understand it; I only take issue with how you express it: I have to object in principle to the statement "[I]n languages such as Nuxálk, consonants may occur without any vowels." This is not actually the case: What's faulty here is a reliance on the overly Euro-centric definition of vowel. Appealing to the Latin origin of consonant is not the solution; it just leads us astray into the etymological fallacy.

So to sum up: You're right that people need to think more broadly about the definitions of the terms consonant and vowel; but validating the old-fashioned, Euro-centric, bad definition is not the way to handle the problem.

(Okay, I think I've "fixed" this part, hopefully in a manner we will find mutually satisfactory.) DThrax (talk) 03:13, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

[Normally I avoid this on a Talk page, but today I've revisited this post and made small fixes to reflect original intent, as follows: (1) Standardized spelling of Tékhnē; (2) corrected article refs. to Nuxálk language: "Nation" was unintended; (3) removed superfluous "not": "Not that it's [not] worth arguing about" - I had intended "Not that it's worth arguing about." -- I don't believe any of this alters the meaning of anyone's replies, so I'm going ahead and fixing these.] DThrax (talk) 22:50, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

Hi Dionysius. Saw this after I responded on your talk page, but figure the discussion should be here. I reverted for now your edit as a personal interpretation that you did not back up with references.
I see no reason to define vowels and syllabic nuclei in terms of each other. Both are useful concepts, and they often overlap. However, we lose something if we do not allow them some independence, and anyway the concept of consonant is hardly Eurocentric. Several European languages (e.g. English) utilize consonants as syllabic nuclei, whereas prototypical CV syllables are the norm in most non-European language families, such as Austronesian, Iroquois, Niger-Congo, and Pama-Nyungan. You give Nuxalk as an example to the contrary; however, in Nuxalk the difficulty is defining what a syllable is, or if the concept of 'syllable' is even applicable. Without any clear idea as to what constitutes a syllable in Nuxalk, it's difficult to use it to support a claim that fricatives may be vowels in that language because they may be syllabic nuclei, let alone whether the concepts of consonant and vowel should depend on syllable structure. What we find instead, around the world, is that, perhaps other than a very few languages such as Nuxalk, there are chunks of speech sonority we call syllables, and that there are sounds so open that it's difficult to define a place of articulation (i.e. 'vowels') which have a very strong tendency to be the sonorous peaks ('nuclei') of such syllables, whereas sounds with identifiable places of articulation ('consonants') have a very strong tendency to occur as the boundaries (onsets, and in many languages codas) of syllables. The fact that this works well with most European languages (less well with Slavic and rhotic English) only shows that Europe is rather average phonetically. kwami (talk) 06:22, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

"This article does not cite any references or sources." Yet *my* change must be backed out because *I* don't back my statements up with citations? Something does not jibe. I'm sorry if I stepped on your toes.
Do you really expect me to believe you know the actual facts-on-the-ground about "most" non-European language families? That's a lot of language families.
Keeping the Nuxálk reference was an attempt on my part to preserve someone else's contribution, where actually it did not belong at all, just so as not to insult them (You?). "Three times" you have missed the point entirely of the "Euro-centric" comments -- these have to do with old-fashioned traditional European categorizations of what is considered a vowel and what is not, which have long flown in the face of the actual existence of syllabic resonant segments, functioning for all intents and purposes as vowels in spoken (as opposed to written) European languages.
Let's make a deal. Since "This article does not cite any references or sources," at all, let's delete the whole thing as Personal Research. This is the kind of high-handed unfounded territoriality that takes the fun out of Wikipedia for everybody. —Preceding unsigned comment added by DionysiusThrax (talkcontribs) 07:44, 30 December 2007 (UTC)

In the "origin of term" section[edit]

"large minority"? Isn't this somewhat a bit oxymoron-ish? Would it be better to change it to "a number of" or even "quite a few"? Keith Galveston (talk) 02:56, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

The number isn't very large, so let's just say 'a minority'. kwami (talk) 06:51, 28 February 2008 (UTC)


Is the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database still available? kwami (talk) 09:11, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

Letter types[edit]

Vowels and consonants are both categories of letters. Are there any other categories in other languages? Shtanto (talk) 22:11, 12 May 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Tone letters, as in Hmong and Zhuang. — kwami (talk) 22:09, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

Number of consonants[edit]

The following sentence is from the 2nd paragraph of the lead: “Since the number of consonants in the world's languages is marginally greater than the number of consonant letters in any one alphabet, linguists have devised systems such as the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to assign a unique symbol to each attested consonant.” The beginning of this sentence is ambiguous (the number in the typical language?) (the total number in all the languages?). In any case, I suspect the IPA was interested in precision and clarity, cross-linguistically, more than anything else. They developed signs for approximately 80 consonants; one can write several times as many with their official diacrital marks. I will edit the sentence to make it agree with this fact.

For what it is worth, here are some numbers: Of 563 languages surveyed in the World Atlas of Language Structures, 212 languages have 18 or fewer consonants -- the Latin alphabet could be made to work for these languages. On the other hand they found 169 languages with with 26 or more consonants. The average was about 22 or 23. The range is from 6 consonant phonemes in the Rotokas language to 122 in the Eastern !Xóõ language. Since they surveyed fewer than 10% of the extant languages, these numbers are likely to change. — Solo Owl (talk) 20:46, 3 January 2011 (UTC)


In which dialects of English does rural /ˈɹɝl/ or /ˈɹɹ̩l/ rhyme with girl /ˈgɝl/ or /ˈgɹ̩l/? I have always pronounced rural as two distinct syllables. There are better examples. — Solo Owl (talk) 21:18, 3 January 2011 (UTC)