Vowels and consonants are nothing but two qualities of sounds. Vowels are produced when there is no blocking of air, i.e. the air comes out freely and directly from our lungs, through the mouth, with vibration in the vocal cords. On the other hand, consonants are produced, when there is some sort of blocking in the air that comes out from our lungs, through the mouth. This is due to the human articulatory mechanism.
Articulation can be understood as the movement of different speech organs such as tongue, teeth, lips, jaw, palate etc. in order to make a sound. When air is released from the lungs, it travels through the windpipe and goes up into your mouth, to generate sound. Although, two speech organs move towards one another to touch each other, to create an obstruction, which results in shaping of the air in a specific pattern. In this way, different sounds are generated for the purpose of speaking.
Let’s take a read of the article presented below to understand the difference between vowels and consonants:
Content: Vowels Vs Consonants
|Basis for Comparison
|A vowel is a speech sound, produced by a fairly open vocal passage, with vibration in the vocal cords, but no audible friction.
|A consonant is a speech sound produced when the vocal passage is fully or partially closed by vocal organs.
|There is no obstruction when lungs expel air.
|Something obstructs the air expelled by the lungs.
|5 or sometimes 7 vowels
|20 vowel sounds.
|24 consonant sounds.
Definition of Vowels
Vowels refer to the speech sound generated with approximation by the open arrangement of vocal passage, with vibration in the vocal cord, without any blockage in the air track. Of all the vocal organs, the tongue is the only organ that is involved in the production of the vowel sound. When a vowel sound is produced, the soft palate is raised, and so the nasal cavity is obstructed. Hence they are ‘oral’.
Further, all the vowels are voiced, as during the production of the vowel sound the vocal cords are drawn together, and the breath from the lungs constantly blows them apart, when it passes through, creating a vibration.
In English, vowels are usually denoted by alphabets a, e, i, o, u. In addition to this, ‘Y’ and ‘W’ are termed as semi-vowel, as sometimes they sound like vowels, i.e. /aɪ/ and /aʊ/ respectively. Example: Gym, Pretty, Why, Saw, Awesome, etc.
When a vowel is paired with a consonant, it creates a syllable. Further, we use a hyphen when there are two vowels in a word, but a different sound, such as re-assign, re-assure, co-operation, etc.
Definition of Consonants
A consonant is a speech sound produced by a momentary blockage in the air channel which passes through the mouth. The obstruction made by the vocal organs such as teeth, tongue, palate, lips, etc., may be partial, full, periodic or may result in a slight contraction, enough to cause friction. While producing a consonant sound, almost all the articulators are engaged. All the letters in English are consonants including ‘y’ and ‘w’, except the vowels, i.e. a, e, i, o, u.
The position of the soft palate demarcates oral consonant and nasal consonants. As we raise the soft palate, it results in the generation of the oral consonant, whereas when we lower the soft palate, the outcome will be a nasal consonant. Except for the letters, ‘m’ and ‘n’ all the letters are nasal consonants.
Further, the vocal cords also separate the consonants into voiced and voiceless, i.e. when the vocal cords are drawn together, their vibration results in voiced consonants, as in case of the letters b, d, g, j, v, z. On the other hand, if the vocal cords are kept apart and air passes from the lungs unobstructedly, such the consonants are voiceless, such as p, t, c, k, o, f, s, h.
Key Differences Between Vowels and Consonants
The difference between vowels and consonants are discussed in the points given below:
- Vowel refers to a sound generated with a fairly open arrangement of the vocal tract, when breath comes out through the mouth, without any obstruction from speech organs. On the other hand, a consonant is a letter (sound) of the English, produced by the impediment of the breath in the vocal passage by articulators.
- When we produce a vowel sound, the air starts from lungs, it flows through the trachea (windpipe) and picks up the sound of the larynx, also called as the voice box, without any impediment of the vocal organs. As against, air is expelled by lungs which flows from the trachea, then it reaches your mouth, where it is obstructed by the vocal organs, such as lips, tongue, teeth, palate, jaw etc., and then the consonant sound is produced.
- When it comes to alphabets, there is a total of five vowel letters in the English language, i.e. a, e, i, o, u. However, ‘y’ and ‘w’ are semivowels, as sometimes they sound like vowel and sometimes like a consonant. Conversely, 21 consonant letters in English, i.e. b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z.
- There are 20 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds in English.
- We use the article ‘an’ before the word starting with a vowel sound. In contrast, we use the article ‘a’ before the word starting with a consonant sound.
One of the significant difference between vowels and consonants is that you don’t need any efforts to produce the sound of the vowels, as they are original sounds. As against, consonants require some efforts to produce them; they are not original sounds.