Phonological FeaturesPhonological Features
The Consonant SystemThe Consonant System
-Griegerich pp.112-129--Griegerich pp.112-129-
Feature theory is an important part of
This chapter will discuss the contrast among
English consonant phonemes.
• To characterize different manner of
articulation, there are some distinctions
between each feature.
• A stop is a sound that involves complete
closure of the oral cavity. On the other hand,
in continuant, the air stream is not totally
blocked in the oral cavity. It can escape
continuously through the mouth.
• The definition of stops and continuant are
mutually exclusive. Any sound that is not a
stop is a continuant, and vice versa.
A sonorant is a sound whose phonetic
content is predominantly made up by the
sound waves produced by its voicing.
In contrast, obstruent articulation involves an
obstruction of the air stream that produces a
phonetic effect independent of voicing.
The definition of sonorant and obstruent are
mutually exclusive. Any nonsonorant is
automatically an obstruent and vice versa.
For the manners of articulation of the
consonant, they can be expressed by four
possible combinations of the two major class
features [± sonorant] [± continuant]. The
classification can be seen below:
Nasal (stop) Oral stop Fricative Approximan
+ - - +
- - + +
Replacing place featureReplacing place feature
• [Anterior] sounds are produced with an obstruction that is
located in front of the palato-alveolar region of the mouth;
non anterior sounds are produced without such
• [+ anterior] covers bilabial, labiodental, dental and alveolar
and [- anterior] covers palato-alveolar, palatal, velar and
• [Coronal] sounds are produced with the blade of the
tongue raised above its neutral position; non coronal sounds
are produced with the blade of the tongue in the neutral
• [Strident] sounds are marked acoustically by greater
noisiness than their nonstrident counterpart. Some strident
are not sibilant.
m n ŋ p t k f θ s ʃ x h ʍ w j r l
[Consonantal] + + + + + + + + + + + + + - - + +
[Sonorant] + + + - - - - - - - - - - + + + +
[Continuant] - - - - - - + + + + + + + + + + +
[Anterior] + + - + + - + + + - - - - - - - +
[Coronal] - + - - + - - + + + - - - - - - +
[Strident] - - - - - - + - + + - - - - - - -
[+ anterior] [- anterior]
m n ŋ
p t k
f θ s ʃ x h ʍ
l r j w
[Round], [High], [Low] and [Back][Round], [High], [Low] and [Back]
The primary use of [Round] and the tongue
body feature is in the vowel system. But it
is desirable to use these features in the
analysis of consonant.
Bilabial consonants are /m p b w/. /w/ andʍ
/ / have lip rounding and the other haveʍ
bilabial closure without any rounding of the
So, we can say that /w/ and / /are [+ʍ
round] and all the other consonant are [-
However, the tongue-body features of [High],
[Low] and [Back] are redundant because
usually consonant are not differentiated by the
Pair of obstruent: [Voice] and [Tense]Pair of obstruent: [Voice] and [Tense]
[Voice] sound is produced with a glottal setting consistent
with vocal-fold vibration; a voiceless sound is produced with
a glottal setting inconsistent with vocal-fold vibration.
Voicing contrasts occur only within the class of [- sonorant]
or obstruent phonemes. The voicing contrasts occur in all
oral stops: /p/-/b/, /t/-/d/ and /k/-/g/; fricatives: /f/-/v/,
/θ/-/ð/, /s/-/z/, and / /-/ /; and voiceless fricatives: /x h/.ʃ ʒ ʍ
Voicing contrast among obstruent is not obvious in all
A phoneme specified as [+ voice] may be fully voiced or
lesser extent devoiced depending on its context, while a [-
voice] phoneme is voiceless in all context.
However, to minimize the redundancies of the
classification of the features [+ voice] and [-
voice], there are another features to notice
whether the phoneme is voiced or voiceless.
The features are [+ tense] and [- tense].
The phonemes with [+ tense] mean that they
are [- voice], while those with [- tense] mean
that they are [+ voice].
[Nasal] and [Lateral][Nasal] and [Lateral]
[Nasal] sounds are produced with a lowered
velum which allows the air stream to escape
through the nose; non nasal sounds are
produced with a raised velum, so that the air
stream can only escape through the mouth.
[Lateral] sounds are produced by lowering the
mid section of the tongue at one or both
sides, thereby allowing the air to flow out of
the mouth in the vicinity of the molar teeth, in
non lateral sounds no such side passage is
From the feature, a sound that is both a sonorant and a
noncontinuant must be a nasal. Those consonant are /m
The only lateral phoneme in English is /l/, so it is [+
lateral] while the other consonants are [- lateral].