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Place of articulation

In speech, consonants may have different places of articulation, generally with full or partial stoppage of the airstream. The descriptions below list positions where the obstruction may occur:

  • Bilabial, between the lips
  • Labiodental, between the lip and teeth
  • Dental, between the lower top teeth and tongue tip
  • Alveolar, between the gum ridge and tongue, above dental
  • Postalveolar, between the palatal ridge and tongue, behind alveolar position
  • Palatal, between the tongue and the palate ("hard palate")
  • Retroflex, tongue curled back to face the palate (tongue curled so underside touches the roof of the mouth)
  • Velar, between the tongue and back palate (velum, "soft palate")
  • Uvular, between the tongue and uvula (back of throat)
  • Nasal, any of the above-listed positions pronounced with the velum lowered to allow air to pass through the nose
  • Pharyngeal, behind the velum (the muscles used to suppress a belch and/or other less pleasant phenomena)
  • Glottal or laryngeal, at the glottis (in the throat, where the larynx prevents food from entering the lungs)


  • In laterals, the air is released past the tongue sides and teeth rather than over the tip of the tongue, and is technically a manner of articulation, not a place of articulation. English speakers often treat this as a separate position because English only has one lateral, /l/. Many languages have more than one, e.g. Spanish written "l" vs. "ll"; Hindi with dental, palatal, and retroflex laterals; and numerous Native American languages with not only lateral stops, but also lateral fricatives and affricates.

Some languages have sounds with two places of articulation. Some common coarticulations include:

  • Labialization, rounding the lips while producing the obstruction (often written w)
  • Palatalization, raising the tongue body to palatal postion while producing the obstruction (often written y or j)
  • Velarization, raising the back of the tongue to velar position (no standard method of representation)
  • Fricative coarticulation: usually a velar fricative (often written x) or pharyngeal fricative (often written with a superscript mirror-imaged question mark symbol)
    • Fricative release is a term that can be used in describing affricates, which are stops with a delayed release producing a fricative sound: [c] = [ts], [C] = [tS], etc.
  • Velar coarticulation: /k/ is produced simulaneously with another stop, e.g. /pk/ (common only in some Bantu language groups) and /tk/ (some South American languages); often, these are written with a tie bar over the two fused sounds

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