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Term Definition

Dorsal consonants are articulated with the mid-body of the tongue (the dorsum). They include the palatal, velar, and in some cases alveolo-palatal and uvular consonants. Dorsals contrast with coronal consonants, articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and laryngeal consonants, articulated in the pharyngeal cavity.

Introduction to dorsal consonants and their sounds

The dorsal is a form of consonant that is pronounced as the speaker moves the middle region of the tongue, also known as the dorsum. In English, a common dorsal consonant is the "g" sound, made in the beginning of the word "grandmother". 

This makes the dorsal consonant different, for example, from the coronal consonants, such as the "z" in "zoo". The latter is pronounced by moving the frontal part, and not the middle part, of the tongue. Learn how to tell the difference between consonants.

The dorsal must thus be understood as one of a broader class of concepts that linguists use in order to classify consonants on the basis of how the tongue moves when those consonants are pronounced. The dorsal is one specific concept within this set. 

Examples and rules of dorsal

Examples of the dorsal consonant within the English language are the sounds 'g' as in "grandmother", and 'k' as in "kaleidoscope". For all these sounds, it is the middle part of the tongue that raises up to the roof of the mouth in order to formulate the proper enunciation. 

As with other categories of consonants like it, the only rule to determine what is and is not a dorsal consonant is to pay attention to how the tongue moves when the relevant sound is made. If the middle part of the tongue moves, then the sound is a dorsal; if it is another part of the tongue that moves, then the sound is not a dorsal. Other English consonant sounds are found here.

Because most English-speakers learn these sounds nearly automatically, the linguistic rules may seem tricky. Yet, learning where and how the sounds are made, especially for foreign-language speakers as well as patients in speech therapy, can be a key component to communicating in English. All of our American essay writers can help you with dorsals as they are all native English speakers.

Additional Information

The dorsal is part of class of consonants that is used in linguistics in order to create a kind of taxonomy of phonemes, or individual sounds.   

Within linguistics itself, the concept of the dorsal (as well as related concepts) can help professionals trace the relationships between different languages. For example, if a given dorsal sound is present in two languages but absent in a third, this could be taken as an indicator of a closer relationship between those two languages. 

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Synonyms: dorsal

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