The consonants of Anishinaabemowin are organized into groups in the table below. Consonants can be classified on the basis of where in the vocal tract they are made (called their place of articulation), and the particular way that they are made (called their manner of articulation). The classificational terms used in the table are explained below. Click here to open the table below in its own window.

Manners of Articulation (How a Consonant is Made). Most consonants involve relatively extreme constriction somewhere in the vocal tract, and one way of classifying consonants is on the basis of how much constriction is involved in their production. The classes of consonants in Anishinaabemowin based on their manner of articulation include stops, fricatives, affricates, nasals, and glides. I will discuss each of these classes below.

Stops. The greatest degree of constriction is made by completely stopping the outward flow of air, and consonants made in this way are called stops. Consider the sound /b/, which is made by putting the lips together and momentarily stopping the flow of air from the lips. The same is true of the /p/ sound. The stop consonants of Anishinaabemowin are /b/, /p/, /d/, /t/, /g/, and /k/. In addition, there is a glottal stop, spelled with an apostrophe (') in the double-vowel writing system, which is different from the other stops in being made in the throat.

Fricatives. Fricatives typically involve considerable constriction, that is, the channelling of the airflow through a relatively narrow passage, but the air is not completely stopped at any point. Fricatives produce friction. The fricatives of Anishinaabemowin are /z/, /s/, /sh/ and /zh/. In addition, the glottal fricative /h/ occurs in a few expressive words, such as ahaaw, 'okay.'

Affricates. Affricates are hybrid sounds, made of two components: the first is a stop, but the stop is released into a fricative. There are two affricates in Anishinaabemowin, /j/ and /ch/; the first consists of the stop+fricative combination /d/ + /zh/, and the second, of the combination /t/ + /sh/.

Nasals. Basic nasal consonants are made with an oral closure (complete stoppage of the airflow), so they resemble (oral) stops in some ways, but they differ from them in that the soft palate is lowered in the production of a nasal, allowing air to flow into the nasal cavity, and out of the nose. The nasal consonants of Anishinaabemowin are /m/ and /n/.

Glides. Glides are very weak consonants that have associations with particular vowels. There are two glides in Anishinaabemowin, /y/ and /w/. The former is called a palatal glide, and is closely associated with the vowels /i/ and /ii/; the latter is called a labio-velar glide, and is closely associated with the vowels /o/ and /oo/. See additional discussion on glides.

Classification Based on Place of Articulation. Consonants can also be classified on the basis of where in the vocal tract they are made, or what is called their place of articulation. The places of articulation pertinent to Anishinaabemowin are labial, alveolar, palatal, velar, and glottal. Each of these is explained in more detail below.

Labials. Labial consonants are made at the lips. The labial consonants include the stops /b/ and /p/, as well as the nasal (stop), /m/. In addition, the glide /w/ has a labial aspect in that it involves lip-rounding. Consonants that involve both lips in their production are said to be bilabial (compare the English consonant /f/, which involves the lower lip but not the upper).

Alveolars or Dentals. Alveolar consonants are made by placing the tip of the tongue on the bony ridge behind the upper teeth, which is called the alveolar ridge. Alveolar consonants include /d/, /t/, /n/, /z/, and /s/. There is some variation in the pronunciation of such consonants among Anishinaabemowin speakers as to how close to the teeth the tongue tip is placed. If the tongue tip is placed directly behind the teeth, as it is for some speakers, the sounds are said to be dental (as opposed to alveolar).

Palatals. Consonants articulated in the area of the hard palate are said to be palatal. The consonants /zh/, /sh/, /j/ and /ch/ are such in Anishinaabemowin, though they are also sometimes called alveopalatals because they involve articulation using the blade of the tongue extending from the alveolar area to the palatal. In addition, the glide /y/ is palatal.

Velars. Velar consonants are made in the area of the soft palate, using the back of the tongue to make contact. The velar consonants of Anishinaabemowin are /g/ and /k/. In addition, the glide /w/ is generally considered velar.

Glottals. A glottal sound is one made in the larynx, at the glotiis, which is simply the name for the opening between the vocal cords (so it names a passageway, rather than a "thing"). The glottal sounds of Anishinaabemowin are /'/, which is a stop (glottal stop), and /h/, which is a glottal fricative. The latter (/h/) occurs only in a few expressive terms, while glottal stop constitutes a relatively common basic sound in Anishinaabemowin.

Discussion of the distinction between the consonant types strong (or hard) and weak (soft) can be found on the second page following (click here to link to it). Otherwise, you can proceed on to a page with sample words modelling pronunciation of all of the distinct consonant sounds of Anishinaabemowin.

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