Understanding Manner of Articulation


– As the name suggests, stops are when a complete closure is made in the oral cavity. There are two kinds of stops: oral stops and nasal stops. Nasal stops are when a closure in the oral cavity is made, but air is allowed to escape through the nasal cavity by lowering the velum. Oral stops are made similarly with a closure in the oral cavity, but the velum is raised so that air cannot escape. Since the air is not allowed to escape, you can’t really produce an oral stop for long (try holding  the pronunciation for [b]!). Instead, nasals can be produced for long periods of time because the air is allowed to escape (see how long you can pronounce [m] for!).  Tip: You can tell if you’re producing a nasal by placing a finger on the tip of your nose. If you can feel your nose vibrate when you pronounce a segment, it’s a nasal!


– Fricatives are when the constriction is really tight, but the articulators aren’t quite touching. Since the articulators are so close, however, it causes the air to become turbulent (i.e. causes friction ). This means that these segments sound like a variation of white noise that you would hear on a television. These segments are also especially known for being quite noisy (there’s a reason why when people are trying to drown out the noise of someone else talking to make them quiet, they say “Shhhhhhhh!” and not “Nnnnnnnnnnnnn!”


– Affricates are segments that produced by a combination of articulations that are similar to producing a stop followed directly by a fricative. An example of this is the [tS] in church or the [dZ] in judge. However, it is important to note that these are considered to be segments of their own, and are not counted as two segments. You can remember their name because it’s similar to the name fricatives. However, remember that they are named affricates and not ‘affricatives’.


– Liquids are segments produced where airflow is allowed to continue through the vocal tract relatively uninhibited. In English, the two key liquids are [l] and [ɹ]. Notice that when you make these articulations, you’re not completely stopping the airflow (like in stops or affricates) or even creating turbulent airflow (like fricatives and affricates). Instead, the air is allowed to continue on in a continuous stream. To remember the segments that are liquids in the English language, just think of a sentence like “rivers are filled with liquids”, where every word in this sentence contains one of the two English liquids.


– Glides are segments that are essentially produced like tiny vowels. Have you ever noticed that whenever you pronounce a word with a [w], that you are essentially pronouncing a tiny [u] before the following vowel? You can notice this even more when you draw out your pronunciation of words with glides. Did you ever wonder why when learning your vowels, you learned ‘a e i o u, and sometimes y?’ This is because the letter ‘y’ sometimes stands for a vowel [i] as in my name Amy and sometimes stands for the glide [j] as in ‘yes’. Glides are different from vowels because of how they are used in the language. Specifically, unlike vowels, glides can never act as the nucleus of a syllable (you’ll learn more about this in the phonology section). In English, we have just two glides: [j], which sounds like a really short [i]; and [w], which sounds like a really short [u]. You can remember how these symbols correspond with the different sounds, because the symbol ‘j’ in the alphabet actually was originally just an ‘i’ with a long tail (hence why it’s the only other letter in the alphabet with the dot above it) and the ‘w’ is called, of course, a ‘double –u‘.