Glossary: consonant


A sound which is produced when the speaker closes off or obstructs the flow of air through the vocal tract, usually using lips, tongue or teeth.

  • /p/ [flow of air stopped by the lips, then released]
  • /t/ [flow of air stopped by the tongue touching the roof of the mouth, then released]
  • /f/ [flow of air obstructed by the bottom lip touching the top teeth]
  • /s/ [flow of air obstructed by the tip of the tongue touching the gum line]

Most of the letters of the alphabet represent consonants. Only the letters a, e, i, o, u and y can represent vowel sounds.

The term 'consonant' is used either for a sound made by bringing the vocal organs together or close to each other, or for a letter used to write a consonant sound: for example, the sound at the start and end of the word mat is a consonant sound, written with the consonant letter m.


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