American English Phonetics

Another American English Faculty Project

The C-system of GA falls into the following groups: sonorants and obstruents.

Sonorants are subdivided into nasals, during which air escapes through the nose, and approximants, for which this is not the case.

nasals approximants
/m/ meal /l/ lip
/n/ Neil /r/ rip
/ŋ/ sing /j/ yes
/w/ well

Obstruents are further subdivided into stops (also known as plosives /ˈploʊsɪvs/) and fricatives. In addition, there are two affricates, /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/, as in cheek and Jack, respectively. They are normally considered to be single consonants, but could also be regarded as combinations of /t,d/ and /ʃ,ʒ/.

stops fricatives affricates
/p,b/ pond, bond /f,v/ feel, veal / t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ/ cheek, Jack
/t,d/ tan, Dan /θ,ð/ think, this
/k,g/ cold, gold /s,z/ sink, zinc
/ʃ,ʒ/ ash, beige
/h/ hall

There is a different way in which obstruents can be subdivided: there is a fortis set /p, t, k; f, θ, s, ʃ; t͡ʃ/, and a lenis set /b, d, ɡ; v, ð, z, ʒ; d͡ʒ/. The difference between fortis and lenis obstruents is very important, as we will see later.

Note: The symbol [t̬] is used for a so called flapped t, as in city /ˈsɪt̬i/.