This is quick reference for the Consonants of the International Phonetic Alphabet.
The IPA features 58 standard consonant symbols, only a fraction of which are used in any given language. For this reason, I will not describe every consonant here. Rather, this guide defines the phrases used on the top and left-hand side of the standard IPA consonant chart:
The top row of phrases on this chart refer to the Consonant positions: that is, what part of the mouth or throat is used to create the consonant. The phrases on the left side of the chart are the “manners of articulation” of those consonants: that is, the type of sound that is created.
Here are some definitions of the phrases used on this chart:
Bilabial: Made with the lips
English Example: “b” in “bed”
Labiodental: Made with the bottom lip and the top teeth
English Example: “v” in “very”
Dental: Made with the tip of the tongue and the top teeth
English Example: “th” in “thing”
Alveolar: Made with the tip of the tongue and the area just behind the top teeth
English Example: “t” in “Tom”
Post-Alveolar: Made with the tip of the tongue and the are just behind where the “alveolar” consonats are pronounced
English Example: “sh” in “short”
Retroflex: Made with the tip of the tongue curved backward behind the alveolar ridge.
English Examples: “r” in some dialects of American English
Palatal: Made with the tongue and the palate (see definition here)
English Examples: “y” in “yes”
Velar: Made with the back of the tongue and the velum (the back of the mouth).
English Examples: “c” in “cat”
Uvular: Made with the back of the tongue and the uvula.
English Examples: No English examples. This is how the French “r” is usually made.
Pharyngeal: Made with the “root” (far back) of the tongue and the pharynx.
English Examples: None. Arabic is the most well know language with Pharyngeals.
Glottal: Made with the glottis (see definition in the glossary). In essence glottal consonants are made with the throat.
English Example: “h” in “hat”
Now let’s look at a rundown of the “manner of articulation” or “qualities” that consonants can have:
Plosive: Part of the vocal tract or mouth is closed, then air is released with a sharp burst
English Examples: “p” in “pet,” “t” in “Tom”
Nasal: Made with the back of the mouth closing up so that air passes through the nasal cavity
English Examples: “n” in “nose,” “m” in “me”
Trill: Made with part of the vocal tract or mouth fluttering rapidly.
English Examples: None in standard English. The “trilled r” in Spanish and Italian.
Tap or Flap: Basically like it sounds. The consonant is made with the tongue quickly “tapping” some part of the mouth.
English Examples: The “t” in “better” in American English. The “r” in Spanish “cara”
Fricative: Made by closing some part of the mouth or vocal tract and pushing air through a small opening.
English Examples: The “f” in “free,” the “s” in “silly”
Lateral Fricative: Made with the tip of the tongue placed against the top teeth, and creating a fricative consonant using the sides of the mouth. If you’re confused about this, don’t worry. It’s used in very few languages.
Lateral Approximant: Made with the tip of the tongue placed against the top teeth, and air coming out the small space between the sides of the tongue and the top of the mouth.
English Example: “l” in “lake”
The best way to learn what sounds are which is to find the IPA symbol you don’t know on the chart, then cross reference the “manner of articulation” with the “consonant position.”
Hope this helped!