In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract. Essentially this means a sound that's "squeezed out" (like IPA|/z/) or "spat out" (like IPA|/t/) is not a sonorant. For example, vowels are sonorants, as are consonants like IPA|/m/ and IPA|/l/. Other consonants, like IPA|/d/ or IPA|/s/, restrict the airflow enough to cause turbulence, and so are non-sonorant. In addition to vowels, phonetic categorizations of sounds that are considered sonorant include approximants, nasal consonants, taps, and trills. In the sonority hierarchy, all sounds higher than fricatives are sonorants. They can therefore form the nucleus of a syllable in languages that place that distinction at that level of sonority; see Syllable for details.

Sonorants are those articulations in which there is only a partial closure or an unimpeded oral or nasal scape of air; such articulations, typically voiced, and frequently frictionless, without noise component, may share many phonetic characteristics with vowels.

The word resonant is sometimes used for these non-turbulent sounds. In this case, the word "sonorant" may be restricted to non-vocoid resonants; that is, all of the above except vowels and semivowels. However, this usage is becoming dated.

Sonorants contrast with obstruents, which do cause turbulence in the vocal tract. Among consonants pronounced far back in the throat (uvulars, pharyngeals) the distinction between an approximant and a voiced fricative is so blurred that such sounds as voiced uvular fricative (IPA| [ʁ] ) and voiced pharyngeal fricative (IPA| [ʕ] ) often behave like sonorants. The pharyngeal consonant is also a semivowel corresponding to the vowel IPA| [ɑ] .

Whereas most obstruents are voiceless, the great majority of sonorants are voiced. It is certainly possible to make voiceless sonorants, but sonorants that are unvoiced occur in only about 5 percent of the world's languages [Ian Maddieson (with a chapter contributed by Sandra Ferrari Disner); "Patterns of sounds"; Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-521-26536-3] . These are almost exclusively found in the area around the Pacific Ocean from New Caledonia clockwise to South America and belong to a number of language families, among them Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Na-Dene and Eskimo-Aleut. It is notable that, in "every" case where a voiceless sonorant "does" occur, there is a contrasting voiced sonorant.Verify source|date=July 2007

Voiceless sonorants tend to be extremely quiet and very difficult to recognise even for those people whose language does contain them. They have a strong tendency to either revoice or undergo fortition to form for example a fricative like IPA|ç or IPA|ɬ.

Sonorants in English

English has the following sonorant consonantal phonemes: IPA|/l/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/, /ɹ/, /w/, /j/ [UCL DEPT OF PHONETICS & LINGUISTICS, (September 19 1995), [ "Sampa for English"] , Accessed May 25 2007.] .


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  • sonorant — [sə nôr′ənt, sōnôr′ənt] n. [ SONOR(OUS) + (CONSON)ANT] Phonet. a voiced consonant that is less sonorous than a vowel but more sonorous than an unvoiced plosive and that may occur as a syllabic [English sonorants are (l), (r), (w), (y), (m), (n),… …   English World dictionary

  • Sonorant — Ein Sonorant oder Sonorlaut (Sonant) ist ein Vokal oder ein Konsonant, bei dessen Bildung keine Turbulenz im Luftstrom hinter der Verengung entsteht. Die Artikulationsart der sonorantischen Konsonanten steht im Gegensatz zu der der Obstruenten.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • sonorant — /seuh nawr euhnt, nohr , soh /, Phonet. n. 1. a voiced sound that is less sonorous than a vowel but more sonorous than a stop or fricative and that may occur as either a sonant or a consonant, as /l, r, m, n, y, w/. 2. a speech sound… …   Universalium

  • sonorant — noun a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; the generic term of vowel, approximant, nasal consonant, etc …   Wiktionary

  • sonorant — so·nor·ant (sə norґənt) voiced …   Medical dictionary

  • sonorant — [ sɒn(ə)r(ə)nt, sə nɔ:r(ə)nt] noun Phonetics a sound produced with the vocal cord so positioned that spontaneous voicing is possible. Origin 1930s: from sonorous + ant …   English new terms dictionary

  • sonorant — so·no·rant …   English syllables

  • sonorant — so•no•rant [[t]səˈnɔr ənt, ˈnoʊr , soʊ [/t]] n. phn a voiced speech sound, as a vowel, semivowel, liquid, or nasal, characterized by relatively free passage of air through a channel • Etymology: 1930–35 …   From formal English to slang

  • sonorant — /ˈsɒnərənt/ (say sonuhruhnt) noun a voiced sound less sonorous than a vowel but more sonorous than a stop or fricative, as /l, r, m, n, j, w/. {Latin sonor noise + ant} …   Australian-English dictionary

  • sonorant — səˈnōrənt, nȯr noun ( s) Etymology: sonorous + ant (as in sonant) (II) 1. : resonant 2. : a nonvocalic resonant sometimes with the exclusion of r , y , and w …   Useful english dictionary

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