Consonants: Nasals

Consonants: Nasals

Nasals are produced by lowering the velum and thus opening the nasal passage to the vocal tract. When the velum is raised against the back of the throat (also called the pharynx wall), no air can escape through the nasal passage. Sounds made with the velum raised are called oral sounds. The sounds [m], as in Kim, [n] as in kin, and [N] as in king, are produced with the velum lowered and hence care called nasal sounds. These consonants are sometimes classified as nasal stops because, just like oral stops, there is a complete obstruction in the oral cavity. In English, all nasals are voiced. Thus, [m] is a voiced bilabial nasal (stop). Can you describe [n] and [N]?
  • Phonetic symbols are written in square brackets [ ] to distinguish them from letters written in ordinary spelling.
  • Our class uses the ASCII Phonetic Alphabet (.pdf) using fonts already on your keyboard.
  • Each sound is a single sound. So [m], a single consonant sound, is not [m^], which is two separate sounds, the voiceless consonant [m] plus the voiced vowel  [^]. 
Click the speaker to hear the symbol and to hear the sound within sample words. Be sure to make the sounds as you hear them, paying attention to where and how the sounds are made in your vocal tract.






Sample Words


moose, lamb, smack, amnesty


nap, design, snow, know


lung, think, singer (this "n" sound is pronounced with the back of the tongue raising farther back in the throat. Listen again to [n] and then to [N])

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