Description of Speech Sounds
Speech Sounds are divided into two main groups:
(1) Consonants, and
Consonants: A description of consonants, according to A.C. Gimson, must provide answers to the following questions:
(i) Is the air-stream set in motion by the lungs or by some other means? (pulmonic
(ii) Is the air-stream forced outwards or sucked inwards? (egressive or ingressive)
(iii) Do the vocal cords vibrate or not? (voiced or voiceless).
(iv) Is the soft palate raised or lowered? Or, does the air pass throughthe oral cavity
(mouth) or the nasal cavity (nose)?
(v) At what point or points and between what organs does the closure or narrowing
take place? (Place of articulation).
(vi) What is the type of closure or narrowing at the point of articu lation? (Manner of
Thus the description of a consonant will include five kinds of information :
(1) the nature of the air-stream mechanism;
(2) the state of the glottis;
(3) the position of soft palate (velum);
(4) the articulators in volved; and
(5) the nature of the ‘stricture’.
The Nature of the Air-stream Mechanism. Most speech sounds and all normal English sounds are made with an egressive pul monic air-stream, e.g., the air pushed out of the lungs.
The State of Glottis. A consonant may be voiced or voice-less, depending upon whether the vocal cords remain wide apart (voice-less) or in a state of vibration (voiced).
The Position of the Soft Palate. While describing consonants we have to mention whether they are oral sounds (produced with soft palate raised, thus blocking the nasal passage of air) or nasal sounds (produced with the soft palate lowered).
The Articulators Involved. In the description of consonants, we have also to discuss the various articulators...