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What Is a Manner of Articulation?

The human tongue helps create sound.
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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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Manner of articulation is usually a part of a phonology course that explains how sounds are formed and produced. The parts of the body that help create sound are called “articulators,” which can include the lips, the tongue, and the teeth. Even the nasal cavity, upper palate, the jaw, and the vocal chords are considered articulators. By interacting with each other, these articulators produce sound. In phonology, there are eight manners of articulation that result in sound production.

The first manner of articulation is the plosives or the “oral stops.” In this process, airflow is temporarily discontinued in order to produce a sound. For example, for creating the “t” sound, a person must bring his upper and lower teeth together, with the tongue behind, and a burst of air forces the teeth open, thereby sound the “t.”

In the nasal stop, the oral cavity is completely closed, while the nasal cavity is open. The air going in and out of the nose produces the sound, such as in “m” and “n.” One can notice that an “m” turns into a “b” when the nose is pinched. This is an indication that a sound is nasal; if the sound changes when the nasal cavity is closed.

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Another manner of articulation is the fricative, wherein airflow is partly obstructed. When a little bit of the air comes out, it produces sounds such as the “f” or the “s,” when air is let out between the teeth or the lips. Some fricatives contain a vibrating sound, such as the “v” and the “z.”

When a fricative is combined with an oral stop, it forms another manner of articulation called the affricate. Just as in “j” and “ch,” the sound is initiated by an oral stop, but progresses into a fricative. One can notice that the “ch” sound can be produced continuously, as compared to the “t” that is sounded in just one instant.

The flap or the tap is the fifth manner of articulation, wherein the tongue sort of “flaps” while creating the sound. One example is the “t” sound in “water:” by changing the position of the tongue, the “t” begins to sound like a “d,” or “wader.” In the seventh manner, which is the trill, the tongue is made to vibrate by continuously breathing out the air against it. The Spanish language often use the trill to produce a hard “r,” such as in “para” and “perro.”

The approximant and the lateral are manners of articulation that do not need much oral and nasal closure to produce the sound. This is the case for sounds like “y” and “h," where the air just flows right out. In the lateral, the tongue is touching the upper teeth and air is continuously pushed against it, such as in the sound of the letter “l.”

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