In the Handbook Of The International Phonetic Association is mentioned this paragraph:

Voicing distinctions are actually more fine-grained than implied by this two-way distinction [voiced and voiceless], so it may be necessary to add to the notation allowed by the two basic symbols. For instance, the symbolization [ba pa pha] implies consonants in which the vocal cords are, respectively, vibrating during the plosive closure, vibrating only from the release of the closure, and vibrating only from a time well after the release (giving what is often known as an 'aspirated ' plosive)...

What exactly does this mean?... It would be great if someone could explain with some examples. Thanks!

1 Answer 1


It means that the phonetics of voicing, as observed in human languages, goes beyond just a two-way distinction between "vocal folds vibrating" vs. "vocal folds not vibrating". Voicing can maintained throughout a consonant constriction, or it can either die out or start up at some point within the consonant, and the non-voiced portions can precede or follow the consonant closure substantially. The voicing, when it exists, can be weak (low amplitude) or strong. There are also properties related to the "shape" of vocal fold vibration (known as phonation type), where the vocal folds can be mostly closed with a short, quick open phase or they can be mostly open with a gradual opening and closing.

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