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Classification of French Consonants

Classification des consonnes françaises


French consonants can be classified in three ways:

1. Voicing | Sonorité

   Unvoiced | Sourde
   The vocal cords do not vibrate (CH, F, K, P, S, T)

   Voiced | Sonore
   Vocal cords vibrate (all the rest)

Note that many consonants have voiced/unvoiced equivalents (B/P, F/V, etc.)

2. Manner of articulation | Manière d'articulation

   Plosive | Occlusive
   Passage of air is blocked to produce the sound (B, D, G, K, P, T)

   Constrictive | Fricative
   Passage of air is partially blocked (CH, F, J, R, S, V, Z)

   Liquid | Liquide
   Easily join to other consonants to make new sounds (L, R)

   Nasal | Nasale
   Passage of air is through both the nose and the mouth (GN, M, N, NG)

3. Place of articulation | Lieu d'articulation

   Bilabial | Bilabiale
   Lips touch to make sound (B, M, P)

   Labiodental | Labiodentale
   Top teeth touches lower lip to make sound (F, V)

   Dental | Dentale
   Tongue touches upper teeth to make sound (D, L, N, T)*

   Alveolar | Alvéolaire
   Tongue is near the front of the mouth (S, Z)

   The back of the tongue is near the palate (CH, GN, J)

   Velar | Vélaire
   The back of the tongue is against the back of the mouth/upper throat (G, K, NG, R)

*The English equivalents of these consonants are alveolar.

Summary: Classification of French Consonants

Bilabial   Labiodental   Dental   Alveolar   Palatal   Velar
 vu   vu  vuvuvuvu
PlosiveBP  DT    GK
Constrictive     VF   ZSJCH   
Liquid    L     R 
NasalM   N   GN NG 
v = voiced     u = unvoiced
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