phoneticsand phonology, a sonorant is a speechsound 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 syllablein languages that place that distinction at that level of sonority; see Syllablefor 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 phoneticcharacteristics with vowels.
The word resonant is sometimes used for these non-turbulent sounds. In this case, the word "sonorant" may be restricted to non-
vocoidresonants; 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 approximantand a voiced fricativeis 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 Oceanfrom New Caledonia clockwiseto South Americaand 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
fortitionto form for example a fricativelike 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), [http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/sampa/english.htm "Sampa for English"] , Accessed May 25 2007.] .
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