Consonants – Alternative Airflows

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What are non-pulmonic consonants?

All English sounds are created by the initiating action of air from the lungs going outward. These are categorized as pulmonic sounds. In contrast, many other languages have sounds which use additional kinds of airstream mechanisms. These are called non-pulmonic sounds.

Non-pulmonic sounds include clicks, ejectives, and implosives. They are all types of stop consonants, but they differ in the source and the direction of their airstreams.

In creating clicks and implosives, the air direction is ingressive – that is, going into the vocal tract. The initiation of the airstream occurs at the velum for clicks, and at the glottis for implosives. Thus, clicks are velaric ingressive sounds, while implosives are glottalic ingressive sounds.

Ejectives are glottalic egressive sounds – that is, the air flows out from the vocal tract. Therefore, ejectives share the direction of the air with pulmonic sounds, and share their airstream mechanism with implosives.

Chart of basic non-pulmonic consonants:

 ʼ      Examples:

The current chart was reprinted with permission from the International Phonetic Association. For more information on copyright and Creative Commons Licensing, please visit here.