Plosives in English

The content:

  1. Characteristics of plosives
  2. Presentation of plosives
  3. Phases in plosives production
  4. Occurrence of plosives


Characteristics of plosives
A plosive is a consonant articulation that has the following characteristics:

  1. One articulator is moved against another. The stricture formed in this way doesn’t allow the air to escape from the vocal tract.
  2. The air is compressed behind this stricture and then it is allowed to escape. When the plosive is released, the air under pressure behind the stricture escapes producing noise that is heard


Presentation of plosives
English has six plosive consonants. They are: p, t, k, d, b, and g; there is one more glottal plosive that occurs frequently but it is considered of a less importance because it is just an alternative pronunciation of p, t or k.

The plosives p and b – the plosives p and b are bilabial which means that the lips are press together. The plosive p is always voiceless. The plosive b can be fully voiced, partly voiced or voiceless.

The plosives t and d – The plosives t and d are alveolar which means that the tongue blade touches the alveolar ridge during production of these plosives. However, the tongue shouldn’t touch the front teeth as it does in the dental plosives so common in many European languages. The plosive t is always voiceless. The plosive d can be fully voiced, partly voiced or voiceless.

The plosives k and g – The plosives k and g are velar which means that the tongue is pressed against the area where the hard plate ends and the soft plate begins. The plosive k is always voiceless. The plosive g can be fully voiced, partly voiced or voiceless.


Phases in plosives production
For a complete presentation/description of plosive consonants we should take a look at the phases of plosives production. There are four phases presented below:

  1. At the first phase the articulator(s) form the stricture of the plosive. This is the closure phase.
  2. At the second phase the air is stopped from escaping. This is the hold phase.
  3. At the third phase the air escapes. This is called the release phase.
  4. There is a forth phase called post-release phase.


Occurrence of plosives
All of the six English plosives can occur at the beginning of a word, between other sounds, and at the end of the word.


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