Why is the letter y a consonant


As consonantAlso called consonant, all sounds are called which, when pronounced, obstruct the breathing flow and narrow the speaker's vocal tract. The counterpart are the vowels(a, e, i, o, u)whose pronunciation leads neither to closure nor to tightness, which is why the air can flow out unhindered. All other letters have a correspondence with the consonants.

Term & examples

The term can be derived from Latin (consonare). The Latin con means With, being sonars With sound translates. The consonant is consequently a clinker or a consonant. To illustrate the principle linguistically, it makes sense to look at a simple example.

Can you please go shopping?

In the example above all consonants and vowels were highlighted in color. You can now try to pronounce the sentence clearly and pay attention to how the air flows when speaking. With the vowels it is noticeable that the mouth is open when speaking, which is why the sound can clearly escape. Accordingly, the air flow is not disturbed. It's different with consonants, a Obstruction will be overcome.

Such an obstruction is called an inhibition point. The individual consonants of a language can be differentiated to the extent that this obstacle is located in the speech apparatus. Let's talk p, if it occurs that we are forming it with our lips, we speak n, the sound is formed on the dental dam.

If you try the whole alphabet, notes that there are very different places in the mouth that are used when articulating letters and sounds. These are known as articulation locations. The following is a simplified representation of the places of articulation that are used when speaking consonants in the speaking apparatus. Followed by a detailed explanation.

Note on the graphic:Places of articulation © Ishwar, editing: Wortwuchs, license: CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Places of articulation of the consonants

The diagram shows that the individual concurrent sounds are formed in very different places in the mouth and in the entire speaking apparatus. Some are almost formed in the throat, others are spoken and formed with the lips at the very front. Let's go through the whole thing from cover to cover.

A rather rough classification of the individual places of articulation can be seen in the diagram. Speech therapists and linguists, however, know a finer distinction. However, this classification is sufficient for a very general view of the topic.

Place of articulationExamplesExplanations
bilabialB.a, P.a, M.autA bilabial is formed with both lips, in German the sounds [b] and [p] are exemplary.
labiodentalF.at, V.atAre sounds that are formed with the lips and teeth, i.e. lip-tooth sounds like [f] and [v].
alveolarTag, D.Oh, NameAlveolar cells are formed on the upper dental dome, i.e. the elevation behind the incisors. In German we know, for example, [t], [d] or [n].
postalveolarschön, GaraGeAre sounds that are formed just behind the tooth dam. In German this applies to [ʃ], ie sch. However, some borrowings from foreign languages ​​also allow this sound, such as the second G in garage, [ʒ].
palatalI.chPalatal consonants are formed on the palate. The German ch finds an equivalent for this sound in numerous words.
velarKind, GutA velar is formed on the back of the palate, the back of the tongue obstructs the flow of air, thus closing. This sound occurs in German [g] and [k].
uvularrot, R.acheUvular means that the sound is made on the uvula. The sound almost sounds like a rattle, [ʁ].
glottalHout, Hand, crackling sound: ver eisenGlottal consonants are formed at the back, they are also known as clicks, this is used when separating word boundaries [ʔ]. In addition, the [h] is formed here.
Note: To understand the above overview, it is important to distinguish between consonants as a designation for sounds and the so-called consonant letters, as we encounter them in German lessons. Anything that hinders the flow of air is called a sound, so the equivalent of a letter is sometimes misleading.

Types of articulation of the consonants

In addition to the different places of articulation, there are of course very different ways of pronouncing a consonant. A common distinction is made between plosives (Plosives), Fricatives (Fricatives), Nasals, side sounds (Lateral) as well as trembling sounds (Vibrants).

Both Plosives If the air flow is obstructed and cannot escape from the mouth for the time being, then it suddenly discharges because the mouth is opened, examples are the letters b, d, p or d. Fricatives do not block the air flow completely, but instead press it through an artificial narrowing, which is why they are also referred to as fricatives. The letters f and H are examples.

At Nasals, for example n and m, the air is released through the nose. The speaker lowers the soft palate so that the air can only escape nasally. Laterals close the mouth in the middle, whereby the air can escape on the sides, an example in German can be found at l.

The so-called trembling sounds, the Vibrants, these are formed by fluttering and air turbulence. Here, either the uvula is hit very quickly against the back tongue or the front tongue against the perineum. The is exemplary r-Sound in Spanish (perro).

Place of articulationExamples
bilabial[p], [b][m]
labiodental[f], [v]
alveolar[t], [d][s], [z], [ʃ][n][l]
palatal[c][ç], [j]
velar[k], [g][x][ŋ]
glottal[ʔ] (crackling sound)[H]

Consonant letters

At some point, vowels appear in German lessons, in German these are the letters a, e, i, o and u. All other sounds are consequently referred to as consonants. However, there are more sounds than letters. It makes sense to differentiate between vowel and consonant letters. These are only phonetic equivalents in letter form.

Vowel letters apply in German The letters A., Ä, E., I., O, Ö, U, Ü and Yas these are spoken without obstruction to airflow. These letters stand for the consonant letters B., C., D., F., G, H, J, K, L., M., N, P., Q, R., S., ß, T, V., W., X, Z across from (are called consonants).

Overview: Meaning, characteristics and the most important
  • Consonants are sounds that are articulated to hinder the flow of air through the speaker. Opposite them are the vowels, from which the air can escape unhindered. The vocal tract is not narrowed.
  • As a result, it is primarily about sounds. What is confusing, however, is that German lessons also divide the letters of the alphabet into consonants and vowels. Vowels mean the letters a, e, i, o, u, which is why all other letters are called consonants. For a clear distinction, the terms vowel and consonant letters make more sense. The sounds are then called vowels and consonants.

  • Note: Not all sounds of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) occur in German. This article focuses primarily on German and neglects foreign languages. Vibrants don't actually appear in German (see above)