The Distinctive Features of English Phonemes Definitions
Sonorant: A normally voiced sound characterized by relatively free air flow through the vocal tract; sonorants include vowels, semivowels, liquids, and nasals. The opposite of sonorants are obstruents, which constrict the flow of air more severely.
Sounds characterized by a partial or complete obstruction of the flow of air
through the speech organs.
[+ consonantal]: stops, affricates, fricatives (excluding [h]), nasals, liquids
[- consonantal]: vowels, semivowels, [h]
Syllabic: Each syllable in a word requires a syllabic sound; put another way, every word has just as many syllabics as there are syllables. Vowels are always syllabic; nasals and liquids may or may not be (hence they are marked that way on the chart); and the other consonants are never syllabic.
Continuant: The flow of air in continuants is not blocked at any point in the articulation of the sound. They include all the sounds other than stops and affricates.
Nasal: When the velum is relaxed the air flows through nasal cavity to produce nasal sounds. English has three [+ nasal] consonants.
Labial sounds are articulated by an obstruction at the lips. (This does not
include rounding, which also takes place at the lips.)
[+ labial]: p, b, f, v, m
Sounds formed by touching or nearly touching the tip of the tongue to the hard
ridge immediately behind the upper front teeth.
[+ alveolar]: t, d, s, z, n, l, r
Sounds produced by moving the front part of the tongue to or near the hard palate
at the roof of the mouth.
[+ palatal]: [cv], [jv], [sv], [zv], y (where the “v” indicates a hacek above the first letter)
produced by moving the back of the tongue to or near the velum (soft palate).
[+ velar]: k, g, [eng]
Anterior: Anterior sounds are produced by an obstruction in the front part of the oral cavity, from the alveolar ridge forward. They include labials, interdentals, and alveolars (but not alveolopalatals).
Sounds made by raising the front (or blade) of the tongue from a neutral position.
[+ coronal]: interdentals, alveolars, alveolopalatals
As the name suggests, sibilant sounds produce a “hissing” effect
by forcing the air through a narrow opening formed using the middle of the tongue.
[+ sibilant]: [cv, jv, s, z, sv, zv] (where “v” indicates a hacek)
Voiced: Voiced sounds are produced with vibrating vocal cords. They include all sounds that are [+ sonorant], and with the exception of [h] all obstruents come in voiced/voiceless pairs.
Back: A sound
produced in vowels and semivowels with the tongue drawn back or retracted from
a neutral position.
[+ back]: back vowels and [w]
Rounded: Sounds produced with a rounding of the lips to give a narrow opening. Rounded sounds include open o, close o, tense u, lax u, and [w].
High: The body of the tongue is raised in producing high sounds. This feature applies only to four vowels in English: tense and lax u and i. Note that vowels that are neither high nor low (i.e., [- high], [- low]) are mid vowels, which are otherwise not categorized here.
Low: Low sounds are produced with the jaw slightly open to allow the body of the tongue to draw lower. American English has three low vowels. Note that vowels that are neither high nor low (i.e., [- high], [- low]) are mid vowels, which are otherwise not categorized here.
Tense: Tense sounds are produced with a contraction of muscles at the base of the tongue. In American English the feature applies only to vowels that are not low (that is, [- low]). There are four [+ tense] vowels [i, e, u, o]