HO CHI MINH CITY UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
CONSONANT IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE
Instructor : Nguyen Ngoc Vu
Student : Duong Thi Tuyet Hoa
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 1
CONSONANT IN ENGLISH AND VIETNAMESE.
Since the sixteenth contrary, efforts have been made to devise a universal
system for transcribing the sound of speech used in human language. The sound of a
language can be grouped into classes, based on phonetic properties that they share.
The most basic division among sounds is into major classes, vowels and consonants.
So, consonant is one of elements in phonetics.
Definition of consonant:
There are many definitions about consonant. Consonant is a speech sound
made by completely or partly stopping the flow of air being breathed out through the
mouth (Oxford advanced Learner‟s Dictionary, 311). According to Wikipedia, “
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with
complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are [p], pronounced with the
lips; [t], pronounced with the front of the tongue; [k], pronounced with the back of the
tongue; [h], pronounced in the throat; [f] and [s], which are noisy (fricatives);
and [m] and [n], which have air flowing through the nose (nasals)”. Besides, according
to the website: http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/consonaterm.htm, there is also a short
and clear definition “A speech sound that's not a vowel; a letter of the alphabet that
represents a speech sound produced by a partial or complete obstruction of the air
stream by a constriction of the speech organs”.
Consonant in English
Consonant can be classified d according to place and manner of this obstruction
Places of articulation
Bilabial: produced with two lips: /p/, /b/, /m/, /w/ as in bite, piece, milk.
Labiodental: produced with the upper teeth and inner lower tip: /f/, /v/ as in fee and veal.
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 2
Dental: produced with the tongue tip on or near the surface of the upper teeth: /Θ/, /ð/
Alveolar: produced with the tongue tip on or near the tooth ridge /t/, /d/, /n/, /s/, /z/, /l/, /r/
as in to, do, zoo, new, light and rain.
Alveopalatal (palate-alveolar): produced with the tongue blade or body near the hard
palate /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /ʧ/, /ʤ/ as in show, television, chow, jam.
Palatal: produced with tongue on or near the hard palate: /j/ as in yes.
Velar: produced with the tongue body or near the soft palate: /k/, /g/, /ŋ/ as in go, kite
Glottal: produced by air passing from the windpine through the vocal cords: /h/ as in he.
Labiovelar: /w/ as in wind
Manner of articulation
Stops are made with a complete closure of airflow through the oral cavity. There are two
possible types of stops: nasal stops and oral stops. (/m/, /n/ , / A speech sound that's
not a vowel; a letter of the alphabet that represents a speech sound produced by a
partial or complete obstruction of the air stream by a constriction of the speech organs.
ŋ/, /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/)
Nasal stops (nasal): /m/, /n/ , /ŋ/.
Oral stops (plosive): /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/.
Fricatives are consonants produced with a continuous airflow through the mouth. They
belong to a large class of sound called continuants (a class also include vowels and
approximants) (/f/, /v/, /Θ/, /ð /, /s/, /z/, / ʃ/,/ʒ/, /h/).
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 3
When a stop is released, the tongue moves rapidly away from the point of articulation.
Some noncontinuant consonants show a slow release of the closure; these sounds are
called affricates. English has only two affricates, both of which are alveopalatal. They
are heard word initially in church and jump. (/ʧ/, /ʤ /).
The fricatives /s/, /z/, /ʃ/,/ʒ/ and the affricates /ʧ/, /ʤ/ represent class of sound call
sibilants. When you produce these sound the friction cause in a „hissing‟ noise.
The front of the tongue makes contact with the alveolar ridge, but the sides of the
tongue are down, permitting the air to escape laterally over the sides of the tongue. It is
usually referred to as a lateral sound. /l/
The airstream moves around the tongue in a relatively unobstructed manner /w/, /j/, /r/.
Quality of consonants
According to Peter Roach‟s course book, there are 24 consonants in English.
A summary of the places and manners of articulation of English consonants in the
Labial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Alaveopalatal Platal Velar Glottal
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 4
voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
voiced m n ŋ
voiceless f Θ s ʃ h
voiced v ð z ʒ
voiced w r j
Consonant in Vietnamese
Manners and places of articulation
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 5
Brief descriptions (based on Thompson 1987) of these 19 consonants will be given in
the following for readers‟ better understanding of the consonant system in Vietnamese.
Fortis stops in Vietnamese are voiceless /p t c k /, and voiced /b d/. They are
characterized by relatively strong articulation. They are exceedingly fortis when they are
at the beginning of syllables. On the other hand, at the end of syllables they are about
midway between the extremes of fortis and lenis. Voiceless stops can occur in initial or
final positions, but voiced stops occur only initially. When voiceless stops occur in final
positions, they are unreleased. Vietnamese examples of the fortis stops are provided
/p/ bilabial voiceless stop.
e.g. pin „battery‟
/b/ /b in Vietnamese is always preceded by glottal stop, which is seldom released
before the beginning of the /b/, with the result of that a partial vacuum is created
between the throat and the lips; when the lip closure is released this vacuum is
often still strong enough so that a little air is sucked in at the lips, giving the sound
its characteristic strangeness to non-native ears (Thompson 1987:24).
e.g. biết „know‟
/t/ apical voiceless stop.
e.g. tiền „money‟
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 6
/d/ apicoalveolar voiced stop, preglottalized and often imploded.
e.g. dì „g‟
/c/ laminoalveolar stop. This phoneme can occurs both in initial and in finial.
e.g. cho „give‟
chết „to die‟
ích „be useful‟
sạch „be clean‟
/k/ voiceless dorsovelar stop.
It is sharply released when occurs in the initial.
e.g. kìa „over there‟
When occurs in the final position after u and [w], it is unreleased with simultaneous
strong rounding (and often closure or near closure) of the lips (Thompsom
e.g. lúc „instance‟
học „to study‟ or „to learn‟
When occurs in final position after vowels other than i, ê, u, ô, and o, it is plain
e.g. nước „water‟
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 7
Lenis oral consonants
Lenis oral consonants in Vietnamese are /f v th l s z x χ h/. They are less articulated
than the fortis stops. They occur only in initial position.
/f/ voiceless labiodental fricative
e.g. Phật „Buddha‟
phở, „noodle soup‟
/v/ voiced labiodental fricative.
e.g. việc „affair,‟ „work‟
/th/ voiceless apicodental stop with aspirated release.
e.g. thi „exam‟
thua „to lose‟
/l/ voiced lateral.
e.g. lính „soldier‟
leo „to climb‟
/s/ voiceless laminodental fricative.
e.g. xin „to ask for‟
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 8
/z/ voiced laminodental fricative.
e.g. gi [zi] „what‟
ra [za] „go out‟
/χ/ voiceless dorsovelar fricative.
e.g. khi „when‟
kho „be difficult‟
/h/ voiceless glottal fricative.
e.g. hieu „to understand‟
hỏi „to ask‟
Nasal consonants in Vietnamese are /m n ɲ ŋ/. They are fully voiced and about
midway in relation to the extremes of lenis and fortis. Those in final position after short
vocalics are more fortis than others. They all occur both initially and finally.
/m/ labial nasal.
e.g. Mỹ „America‟
tìm „to look for‟
/n/ postdental apical nasal.
e.g. năm „year‟
hơn „be more‟
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 9
/ ɲ / palatal nasal
e.g. nhớ, „to remember‟
benh „to defend‟
nhanh „be fast‟
/ŋ / dorsovelar nasal. When it occurs in the final, it comes simultaneously with strong
rounding (and often closure or near closure) of the lips. Only after u, and [w] if
occurs in the final position.
e.g. nghỉ „to rest‟
đúng „be correct‟.
Quantity of consonants
There are 23 initial consonants: /b/, /f/ (ph), /v/, /m/, /t/, /d/ (đ), /th/ (th), /s/ (x), /z/ (d),
/n/, /l/, / ţ / (tr), /ʃ/ (s), / ʐ / (gi, r), /c/ (ch), / ɲ / (nh), /k/ (c, k, q), /γ/ (g), /χ/ (kh), /ŋ/ (ng),
/h/, /p/, /r/. There are six final consonants: /p/, /t/, /k/ (c/ch), /m/, /n/, /ŋ/ (ng/nh) and
two final semivowels: /i/ (i/y), /u/ (o/u) also may call two final semi-consonants. The
possible Vietnamese consonants are represented in the following chart based on the
place and manner of their articulation.
Labial Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar Glottal
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 10
Stop Voiceless p t ţ c k
Stop Voiced b d
Stop Voiceless th
Fricative Voiceless f s ʂ χ h
Fricative Voiced v z ʐ ɤ
Nasal Voiced m n ɲ ŋ
Lateral Voiced l
rolled voiced r
Learners should focus on the following consonants.
In English the unaspirated /t/ and the aspirated /t h/ are the allophones of the
phoneme /t/. The aspirated /th/ occurs at the beginning of a stressed syllable, the
unaspirated /t/ in the other positions. In other words, they are in complementary
distribution. For example, in the word taskmaster, the first consonant t is aspirated
/th/, the second one is unaspirated /t/. The unaspirated /t/ and aspirated /t h/ are
different phonemes in Vietnamese that distinguish the meanings of words: ta (we) ≠
tha (to forgive), tơ (silk) ≠ thơ (poetry), tư (private) ≠ thư (letter). On the other hand,
the Vietnamese aspirated consonant /th/, which is indicated by the combination of the
two characters th, should not be confused with the English consonants /θ/ and /ð/.
The voiceless consonant /t/ should not be mixed up with its voiced counterpart
/d/: ta (we) ≠ đa (banyan tree), tà (evil) ≠ đà (momentum), tá (dozen) ≠ đá (to kick). In
American English some words with the voiceless /t/ tend to be pronounced with the
voiced /d/, for instance: better, water.
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 11
Learners should not confuse the three nasal consonants /n/, / ɲ / and /ŋ/. The
Vietnamese alveolar consonant /n/ is similar to the English /n/. The English
consonant /ŋ/ occurs only at the end of a syllable, for example: sang, long, thing,
single. The Vietnamese /ŋ/ functions both as an initial consonant, e.g. ngà, nghe,
ngủ, and as a final consonant, e.g. ngang. The consonant / ɲ / rarely occurs in
English. Learners may have trouble producing the initial consonants / ɲ / and /ŋ /.
Their attention should be focused on the distinctive features of the consonants in
terms of the place of articulation: /n/ is an alveolar consonant made with the contact
of the tongue tip against the alveolar ridge, / ɲ / is a palatal consonant produced with
the back of the tongue rising toward the hard palate and touching it, /ŋ/ is a velar
consonant, which is created with the blade of the tongue moving backwards and the
back of the tongue contacting the velum.
After collating English consonant with Vietnamese one, both of them have lots
of different and same features. Similar consonants are fricative, lateral and alveolar
and h: glottal in English and Vietnamese.
About manner of articulation (fricative)
In English, fricatives: Θ, ð, s, z, l, ʒ. Detal fricative: Θ, ð , alveolar fricative: s, z,
palate- alveolar fricative: ʃ, ʒ. Besides, there are approximant, bilabial: w, palate-alveolar
approximant: r and palatal approximant: j in English; but there are no ones in
About place of articulation
There are lots of complex consonants in English such as affricate: ʧ, ʤ. These
consonants are both affricate in manner of production and palate-alveolar in place of
articulation. Moreover, there are dentals: f, v, Θ, ð; alveolar: t, d, s, z, n, l; alveolar-
palato: l, ʒ, ʧ, ʤ while t, d, n, z, are alveolar.
From collating English- Vietnamese consonant system has lots of different and
same features, it is very important to talk about implications for English teaching as well
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 12
Each country has its own culture and language. This makes learners fell difficult in
pronouncing sounds especially consonants. There are lots of English consonants do not
exist in Vietnamese, for example p, Θ, ð, ʒ, ʤ or the reverse. Moreover, most of people
usually have tendency to transfer L1 into L2 when studying foreign language. So,
learners will not pronounce English correctly, which lead to listen and speak it not
effectively. Besides, there are only six final consonants in Vietnamese while English has
more ones are different from such as z, ʃ , ʧ ….for example in use, watch,
wash…..because they do not exist final consonants in Vietnamese, learners usually
pronounce without final sounds.
Therefore, teachers need to master and understand clearly consonant system of
two languages for students practice pronunciation to speak as well as listen better.
Teachers should ask students to practice more and frequently. For instance, to
pronounce more easily, we can guide students some English consonants are not
Vietnamese but we pronounce in English like in Vietnamese. For example, Θ in English
like in Vietnamese; ʃ , ʧ, ŋ, s in English like s, ch, ng, x in Vietnamese. This may be
more interesting and memorable to pronounce English. To pronounce well, we must
master consonant in English and Vietnamese
In short, it is obviously that two different cultures have two different languages-
English and Vietnamese. Therefore, English-Vietnamese consonants are not the same
at all. There are some differences between them. When working this, I hope that
everyone understand more clearly an aspect of speech sound of languages-consonant.
It is said that we know one more language, know one more a „world‟.
O‟Grady, W. & Dobrovolsky, M. & Arnoff, M. (1987) Contemperary Linguistics An
Introduction Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman.
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 13
Celce-Murcia, M & Brinton, D.M. & Goodwin, J. M. 1996 Teaching Pronounciation A
Reference to Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge
Le, Quang Thiem. (2004). Nghiên cứu đối chiếu các ngôn ngữ. Hanoi: Hanoi National
Bui, Manh Hung. Ngôn ngữ học đối chiếu. Educational Publisher.
Consonant in English. 29 December.2009<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consonant>
Definition of consonant. 29December.2009
Vuong, Huu Le & Hoang Dung. Ngữ âm tiếng Việt. Hanoi: I Hanoi Education University
L.C. Thompson and Nguyễn Đức Hiệp. A Vietnamese Reader, Seattle: University
Consonant in Vietnamese. 29December,2009<http://www.de-
Consonant in English and Vietnamese Page 14