How do consonant sounds differ from vowel sounds?

1 Answer

Vowels come from the vocal chords. Consonants are staccato beats made from movement of the tongue and/or lips.


Awesome question! (I found myself working through the sounds of the English alphabet trying to figure this one out!)

Vowels are sounds that can be made with vocal chords. In English, you have 5 basic ones (if you say aloud the letters a, e, i, o, and u, those are them). Then you can shorten them. And you can add little tweaks (ex. oo as in "do" and "threw"). But no movement of the tongue or lips are needed.

Consonants do require tongue and/or lip movement. Try saying the letter "k" without moving your jaw, or "j". Try saying the letter "p" without moving your lips. Also with consonants, they are little staccato beats in a word. When we say the letter "b", the thing that makes it a "b" and not a "c" is a very quick thing at the beginning of the letter - the rest of the sound is the vowel "e".

There are, of course, exceptions. I just realized that the letter "x" spoken in a drawn out manner doesn't linger on a vowel but instead an "s". And "s" itself lingers on a "hiss" and not any sort of vowel sound - but to make the hiss you need to move your tongue, so it wouldn't be seen as a vowel.