Distinction between consonants and vowels

Consonants and vowels are two different qualities of sounds that are found almost in all languages of the world.

Consonants are defined as the sounds articulated by temporary obstruction in the air stream which passes through the mouth. The obstruction made by the articulators may be `total’, `intermittent’, `partial’, or may merely constitute a narrowing sufficient to cause friction. In the articulation of consonants almost all articualtors are involved.

Vowels on the other hand are the sounds that are produced without any obstruction in the air passage. Among all articulators, only the tongue is involved in their production. All vowel sounds are voiced and all of them are oral sounds as during the production of them the soft palate is raised and hence the nasal cavity is completely blocked.

Another important distinction is, that consonants often appear as the marginal elements in syllables. They seldom form the nucleus, or centre, of the syllable except in some cases. Usually there will be a vowel at the center or nucleus of a syllable. You will learn more about this in the rubric on Syllables and Syllable Structure

When it comes to describing and classifying consonants and vowels show apparent distinction. Consonants are identified or classified in terms of voicing, place of articulation, and manner of articulation. Since there is no obstruction of the airstream in the production of vowel sounds, and since all vowel sounds are voiced and oral, we cannot describe vowels in terms of their place of articulation, but are left with the manner, in which they are produced.