Examples of vowel and consonant phonemes

The phonology Is a branch of linguistics that studies and describes the sounds of a language. This system includes an inventory of sounds, their characteristics and the rules of how the interaction between them occurs.

In addition, in this field of study are identified the phonemes that are represented by the letters, which are small units that alone have no meaning. But, which, in turn, represent some phonological units that help to differentiate one sound from another.


It is fundamental not to confuse a phoneme with a sound, since the first is a mental image and the other is the material manifestation of the phoneme. The latter can be classified according to the anatomy and physiology of the place where they are articulated, such as the oral cavity, the nasal cavity and the vocal cords.

Broadly speaking, the air contained in the lungs goes through the different cavities and the articulated sound will depend on the passive and active articulators. In this way, passive articulators include the upper teeth, the alveolar crest and the hard palate. And among the active, or mobile, are the pharynx, soft palate, jaw, tongue, lower teeth and lips.

In general, the phonology allows the study of the sounds typical of the language. As for orality is related to phonemes and sounds, and as for writing, it is linked with graphemes and letters.

However, the management of these phonemes is not always carried out correctly since there may be a series of disorders such as Functional dyslalia , Dysglosia wave Dysarthria .


Phonemes are a set of sounds that serve to distinguish one word from another. It may consist of several phonetically distinct articulations, and may be considered equal by speakers of a particular language.

It is said that the phoneme is the minimum unit of oral language because it refers to the sounds that allow to differentiate the words of a certain language. As curiosity, in the Spanish language there are 22 phonemes and in English 40.

Phonemes are represented by two diagonal lines //. There are the vowel phonemes that are / a / / and / / / / / / / / / and the consonant phonemes represented by all the consonants of the alphabet: / b / / c / / d / / f / / g /...

At the phonic level of the language, speech level, phonology comprises the sounds, which are the units of study of phonetics.

And in the plane of the writing, are the graphs or letters, which are the written representation of the phonemes, regulated by the spelling. In Castilian there is a correspondence between phonemes and spellings, although there are also some mismatches that give rise to the so-called"spelling errors".

However, there is an international phonetic alphabet, by means of which the representation of sounds in any oral language is regularized, unified and precise, and allows graphical display of the pronunciation of words.

Vocal and consonant phonemes

The vowels are sounds that are produced when the air of the lungs goes through the vocal cords vibrating to fill the mouth of the latter. Vowels can be classified according to the height of the tongue, the position of the tongue and the way the lips are opened.

For their part consonant sounds are those in which the air encounters an obstacle to get outside the mouth. These can be classified according to the point of articulation in bilabial, labiodental, interdental dental, alveolar, palatal and velar.

As for the mode of articulation, the sounds are classified as occlusive, fricative, affricated, lateral, vibrant, deaf and sonorous. And as for the activity that has the nasal cavity in its pronunciation in nasal and oral.

The following are the articulation zones for the pronunciation of the vowels, which are:

  • Vocal / a /, medium location: high aperture.
  • Vocal / e /, previous location: medium aperture.
  • Vocal / i /, previous location: minimum aperture.
  • Vocal / o /, posterior location: medium aperture.
  • Vocal / u /, posterior location: medium aperture.

In the case of articulation zones for the pronunciation of the consonants may be highlighted:

  • Zone of bilateral articulation, contact with two lips: letter / b /, / m /, / p /.
  • Area of ​​labial joint, contact with the lower lip and upper teeth: letter f /.
  • Zone of interdental articulation, contact with the tongue between the teeth: letter / z /.
  • Zone of dental articulation, contact with the tongue behind the upper teeth: letter / d /, / t /.
  • Zone of alveolar articulation, contact with the tongue rests on the root of the upper teeth: letter / l /, / s /, / r /, / rr /, / n /.
  • Zone of palatal articulation, contact with tongue and palate: letter
  • Zone of articulation velar, contact with the tongue and the veil of the palate: letter / g /, / k /, / j /.

On the other hand, as far as the position adopted by the organs producing the sound are:

  • Occlusive type, the total and momentary closing of the air passage is adopted: letter / b /, / d /, / p /, / t /, / k /, / g /.
  • Type fricative, adopts the narrowing through which the air brushes through: letter
  • An affricated type, there is an occlusion and then a friction: letter
  • Type lateral, the air passes by rubbing the sides of the buccal cavity: letter / l /, / ll /.
  • Vibrant type, the air vibrates the tip of the tongue when passing: letter
  • Nasal type, part of the air passes through the nasal cavity: letter / m /, / n /, / ñ /.

For the relation of the vocal cords, the sounds sonorous and deaf have the following characteristics:

  • Sound deaf, the vocal cords do not vibrate: letters / j /, / f /, / ch /, / k /, / p /, / t /, / z /, / s /.
  • Sound sounds, the vocal cords vibrate: letters / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / Z /.

In this way, and in a summarized way, the consonant phonemes' traits are grouped in:

  • Letter / p /, its feature is that it is bilabial, occlusive and deaf.
  • Letter / b /, the trait is bilabial, occlusive and sonorous.
  • Letter / t /, the trait is dental, occlusive and deaf.
  • Letter / d /, the trait is dental, occlusive, sonorous.
  • Letter / k /, the trait is velar, occlusive, sonorous.
  • Letter / g /, the feature is velar, occlusive, sonorous.
  • Letter / f /, the trait is labidental, fricative, deaf.
  • Letter / z /, the trait is interdental, fricative, deaf.
  • Letter / s /, the feature is alveolar, fricative, deaf.
  • Letter / j /, the feature is velar, fricative, deaf.
  • Letter / ch /, the trait is palatal, affricated, deaf.
  • Letter / r /, the feature is alveolar, vibrant and sonorous.
  • Letter / rr /, the feature is alveolar, vibrant and sonorous.
  • Letter / l /, its feature is alveolar, lateral and sonorous.
  • Letter / ll /, the trait is palatal, lateral and sonorous.
  • Letter / m /, the trait is bilabial, nasal and sonorous.
  • Letter / n /, the trait is alveolar, nasal and sonorous.
  • Letter / ñ /, its feature is palatal, nasal and sonorous.
  • Letter / y /, its feature is fricative, palatal and sonorous.

To conclude, here are some examples of phonemes of those named above:

  • Phoneme / b /, corresponds to the spelling b or v. For example: good or glass.
  • Phoneme / k /, corresponds to the graph c, qu, k. For example: sew, want or kilo.
  • Phoneme / g /, corresponds to the graph g, gu. For example: cat or guitar.
  • Phoneme / s /, corresponds to the spelling c. For example: closing.


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  4. All about phonemes, phonetics and spelling (s.f.). Phonemes, letters and allophones. Retrieved from phonemicchart.com.
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