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Phonetics is the study of how human speech sounds are created and produced. Within phonetics, speech sounds can be split into two main categories: consonants and vowels. This is how they are organized in the IPA chart.
The IPA chart is a visual representation of all possible human speech sounds.
The consonants are organized and differentiated based on their place of articulation and manner of articulation.
Place of articulation refers to where the obstruction of air takes place during sound production.
Manner of articulation refers to how air is released through the vocal tract.
There are 11 different places of articulation, one of which is alveolar.
Today we'll be discussing alveolar consonants.
An alveolar sound is a type of speech sound produced at the alveolar ridge.
The alveolar ridge is the hard part at the top of the mouth behind the teeth. It's the part of the mouth you touch with your tongue when pronouncing letters like 't' and 'd'.
The term Alveolar is always used to refer to a type of consonant speech sound.
A consonant speech sound is produced when there is some form of obstruction (either complete or total) when the airflow is released.
This differs from vowel speech sounds which are produced with no obstruction to the airflow.
All consonant speech sounds can be either voiced or voiceless. Voicing refers to the vibration of the vocal cords.
When a speech sound is voiced, the vocal cords vibrate.
For example /b/, /m/, /g/, and /l/
When a speech sound is voiceless, there is no vibration in the vocal cords, creating a whispering sound.
For example /t/ /s/, /h/, and /f/
You can tell if your vocal cords are vibrating by placing your fingers on your throat while speaking. If you can feel vibrations, you're creating a voiced sound.
Try doing this and swapping between whispering and speaking.
An alveolar consonant sound is produced when the obstruction to airflow takes place at the alveolar ridge. The airflow obstruction is caused by the tongue and the way it makes contact with the alveolar ridge.
In the speech sound /t/, the tip or blade of the tongue makes contact with the alveolar ridge and then retracts, creating airflow.
Different parts of the tongue are used to articulate different sounds.
There are five areas of the tongue referred to in the field of phonetics:
In phonetics, alveolar consonant sounds can be split into 8 different types. These are all still articulated by the tongue having contact with the alveolar ridge, but each has a different form of air release and creates different sounds.
Of the 8 types of alveolar consonant sounds, five are often used in the English language. They are:
Alveolar Lateral Approximant
Although these are the five most commonly used alveolar sounds in English, alveolar trills can also be used.
We'll now have a look at each of these five alveolar sounds mentioned in turn.
Alveolar plosive sounds are produced when the tip or blade of the tongue makes contact with the alveolar ridge and then retracts quickly. The quick movement of the tongue creates a sudden release of airflow, which causes the speech sound.
There are two alveolar plosive sounds: /t/ and /d/.
The /t/ sound is voiceless, and the /d/ sound is voiced.
Here are some examples of words that use the alveolar plosive sounds:
determined - /dɪtə:mɪnd/
Alveolar nasal sounds are created when the blade of the tongue makes contact with the alveolar ridge. The tongue stays in this position while air is released through the nasal cavity.
The nasal cavity is the passage from the top of the throat to the end of the nose. It is where air travels when you breathe through your nose.
There is one alveolar nasal sound, /n/, which is voiced.
Some examples of words that use the alveolar nasal sound are:
nan - /næn/
man - /mæn/
noon - /nu:n/
incongruous - /ɪnkɒŋgɹʊəs/
When an /n/ is followed by a /g/ in a word (as in -ing endings), the -ng sound can be mistakenly written as /ng/. In most cases, this is incorrect and should instead be written as the voiced velar nasal sound /ŋ/.
A fricative sound is produced when there is a partial obstruction to the airflow. The front of the tongue makes slight contact with the alveolar ridge, creating friction when the air is pushed through the oral cavity.
There are two alveolar fricative sounds in the English language: /s/ and /z/.
The /s/ is the voiceless form and /z/ is the voiced form.
Some words that use the alveolar fricative sounds are:
You may notice that the final word here 'dogs,' is spelled with an S at the end but is transcribed as having a Z. This is because when a voiceless sound follows a voiced sound, it is usually changed to a voiced sound to make the sequence of sounds easier to produce.
An alveolar approximant sound is made when the tongue comes very close to the alveolar ridge but doesn't actually make contact.
The only alveolar approximant sound is the voiced /ɹ/.
Here are some examples of the alveolar approximant sound in words:
The examples here show words that only have R either at the beginning or in the middle of a word. Some words that have an R in their spelling (either in the middle or at the end) don't articulate the R sound.
The lack of articulated R in some words is due to standard English being a non-rhotic accent.
A rhotic accent is an accent that articulates the R sounds in words. Some rhotic accents are Irish, Cornish, and most American accents.
An alveolar lateral approximant sound is produced when the blade of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge and air is released around the tongue and down the sides of the mouth.
The alveolar lateral approximant speech sound is /l/, which is voiced.
Here are some examples of the alveolar lateral approximant in words:
The alveolar trill sound isn't one that's typically used in Standard English language, but it can appear on occasion when people roll their Rs. Rolled Rs are often present in the speech of people who have a Scottish or Welsh accent.
There is one alveolar trill sound written in the IPA as /r/.
Here are some examples of the alveolar trill being used:
In a Scottish accent:
In a Welsh accent:
In the Scottish accent, the rolled R is more common in the speech of older speakers, with the younger speakers tending not to use the rolled R anymore1.
The rolled R is a more common feature in the Welsh accent, with both older and younger speakers using it.2
The IPA symbols can get a little confusing so let's go over what the IPA symbols for alveolar consonants are again:
/t/ - voiceless alveolar plosive
/d/ - voiced alveolar plosive
/n/ - voiced alveolar nasal
/r/ - voiced alveolar trill
/ɾ/ - voiced alveolar tap
/s/ - voiceless alveolar fricative
/z/ - voiced alveolar fricative
/ɫ/ - voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
/lʒ/ - voiced alveolar lateral fricative
/ɹ/ - voiced alveolar approximant
/l/ - voiced alveolar lateral approximant
You may notice that not all of these are alveolar consonant symbols we've already covered - some are consonant sounds not used in the English language.
Can you identify which of these consonant sounds are and are not used in the English language?
We've now covered all of the alveolar sounds, so let's finish by recapping the sounds that can be used in the English language.
Example in a Word
|Voiceless alveolar plosive||/t/||t|
|Voiced alveolar plosive||/d/||d||did/dɪd/|
|Voiced alveolar nasal||/n/||n||noun/naʊn/|
|Voiced alveolar trill||/r/||r||perro/pɛrɒ/|
|Voiceless alveolar fricative||/s/||s||sense/sɛns/|
|Voiced alveolar fricative||/z/||z or s|
|Voiced alveolar approximant||/ɹ/||r||drink/dɹɪnk/|
|Voiced alveolar lateral approximant||/l/||l||little/lɪtəl/|
'Alveolar' is used to refer to a consonant sound produced when the place of articulation is the alveolar ridge.
An alveolar sound is a type of consonant sound created at the alveolar ridge. Some examples of alveolar sounds are /t/, /d/, /n/, and /s/.
In Standard English, there are 7 alveolar consonant sounds: /t/, /d/, /n/, /s/, /z/, /ɹ/, and /l/. In English, there is also another alveolar sound that can be used in the Scottish and Welsh accents. This is the alveolar trill sound /r/.
The sounds /t/ and /d/ are both alveolar plosives. The /t/ is voiceless and the /d/ is voiced.
The alveolar trill /r/ is not typical of Standard English however, it does appear in the speech of people with Scottish or Welsh accents. Some languages such as Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Greek do use the alveolar trill regularly.
What does alveolar refer to?
A place of articulation
True or false: Alveolar sounds can be either vowels or consonants?
Where are alveolar sounds articulated?
Fill in the blanks:
The alveolar ridge is located at the _____ of the mouth _____ the _____.
True or false: Alveolar sounds can only be voiced.
False - there are both voiced and voiceless alveolar sounds.
How is an alveolar consonant sound produced?
An alveolar consonant sound is produced when the obstruction to the airflow takes place at the alveolar ridge.
Which articulator is used to produce sounds at the alveolar ridge?
How many areas of the tongue are there?
Which of these isn't a part of the tongue referred to in phonetics?
How are the alveolar plosive sounds produced?
The tongue creates a complete obstruction to the airflow at the alveolar ridge and then releases the air quickly.
Which of these are the two alveolar plosive sounds?
How is the following sound described, and how is it produced?
Voiced alveolar nasal
This is produced when the blade of the tongue is touching the alveolar ridge and air is released through the nasal cavity.
True or false: The voiced alveolar trill is often used in Standard English.
False - The voiced alveolar trill isn't typical of Standard English although it does appear in the Welsh and Scottish accents and in other languages such as Spanish.
Which of these IPA symbols is used to represent the voiced alveolar trill?
What are these two sounds?
Which of these is a voiced alveolar approximant?
True or false: Words with an R in their spelling always have a voiced alveolar approximant (/ɹ/) in their articulation in a Standard English accent.
False - In Standard English, words such as farm are articulated without the voiced alveolar approximant. So, farm would be articulated as /fa:m/ instead of /fa:ɹm/ (as it would be said in a rhotic accent).
Is the alveolar lateral approximant sound voiced or voiceless?
Which of these is the alveolar lateral approximant sound?
How many alveolar consonant sounds can appear in the English language?
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