Voiced & Voiceless
When we're analyzing sounds in English phonology, they are either voiced or voiceless. In this lesson, I will teach you what it means.
There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but there are 39 sounds (15 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds). In this lesson, we are going to identify which ones are voiced and which ones are not.
What Are Voiced & Voiceless?
If vocal cords vibrate in the throat, uttering a sound, we have a voiced sound, and if vocal cords do not, the sound is unvoiced. All the vowels produced in English are voiced, while consonants are either voiced or voiceless.
Why Should We Know Voiced/Voiceless Sounds?
Learning how to differentiate voiced from voiceless sounds is helpful because
1. It helps us label a consonant as voiced or unvoiced sound.
2. It also helps determine whether “s” at the end of a word makes the /s/ sound or the /z/ sound.
How to Determine Voiced/Voiceless Sounds?
If you put your hand on your larynx while pronouncing a sound, you notice that your vocal cords vibrate for voiced sounds and they do not vibrate in unvoiced sounds.
1. Voiced Vowels
Vowels in English are A, E, I, O, U. All of them have voiced sounds because their pronouncing requires the flowing air in the larynx.
2. Voiced Consonants
These consonants produce voiced sounds: B, D, G, J, L, M, N, R, V, W, Y, and Z.
3. Voiceless Consonants
These consonants produce voiceless sounds: P, T, K, CH, and F.
Here is the table of voiced/voiceless consonant sounds:
|/z/||/s/ (voiced and unvoiced sound)|
4. Voiceless and Voiced Consonant
There is only one consonant that can be either voiced or unvoiced and that is the ending ‘s.’
Depending on what consonant precedes it, it can be voiced or unvoiced.
a. If it follows a voiced consonant/vowel, it becomes voiced and sounds /z/:
'g' is a voiced consonant and 's' is pronounced /z/.
'e' is a voiced vowel.
'r' is a voiced vowel.
b. If the ending 's' follows an unvoiced consonant, it becomes unvoiced and sounds /s/:
't' is an unvoiced sound.
'f' is an unvoiced sound.
Digraphs are sounds that are made up of a combination of two letters, one is always voiced and the other is unvoiced. But, the digraph 'th' is made up of two unvoiced sounds: 't' and 'h'.
The interesting point is that 'th' can produce either voiced or unvoiced sound. If it produced /ð/ sound, it is voiced, and if it produces /θ/ sound, it is unvoiced.