Difference Between Articulation and Phonology

Main Difference – Articulation vs Phonology       

Articulation and phonology are both concerned with the sounds in a language. Phonology is the system of contrastive relationships among the speech sounds that constitute the fundamental components of a language. Articulation is the formation of a speech sound by constriction of the airflow in the vocal organs at a particular place and in a particular way. Articulation is categorized under phonetics. The main difference between articulation and phonology is that phonology belongs to theoretical linguistics whereas articulation is studied under descriptive linguistics.

This article explains,

1.  What is Articulation? – Definition, Meaning, and Characteristics

2. What is Phonology? – Definition, Meaning, and Characteristics

3. What is the Difference Between Articulation and Phonology? 

Difference Between Articulation and Phonology - Articulation vs Phonology Comparison Summary

What is Articulation

Articulation is the movement of the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs in order to make speech sounds. The act of expelling air from the lungs produces sounds. But, a speech sound is produced by the constriction of the airflow in the vocal organs at a particular place and in a particular way. In other words, speech sounds are produced when two speech organs come close to each other and contact each other, so as to create an obstruction that shapes the air in a particular fashion.

Tongue, lips, teeth, palate, jaw are the speech organs that help us produce speech sounds. The exact point where the obstruction occurs is known as the place of articulation and the manner in which this obstruction is called the place of articulation.

Place of Articulation

Given below are the places of articulation used in the English language.

    Place of Articulation




  Both lips come together

p, b, m


  Lower lip contacts upper teeth



  Tip of the tongue contacts upper teeth

“Thursday” [voiceless] or “the” [voiced]


  Tip of the tongue contacts the alveolar ridge

t, d, n, s, z


  Tip of the tongue contacts the postalveolar region behind the alveolar ridge

sh, ch, zh,


  Middle of tongue approaches or contacts the hard palate



  Back of tongue contacts the soft palate

k, g, ng


  Back of tongue comes close to the soft palate and, lips come close to each other



  Obstruction is in the vocal cords in the throat


Manner of Articulation

The manner of articulation can be categorized into the degree of stricture, alternative air flow and dynamic movement of the tongue.

Degree of Stricture (the extent of the blockage)

Stop – Complete blockage followed by sudden release (Ex: t, d, p, b, k, g)

Fricative – Incomplete blockage but causes a significant airflow turbulence (Ex: f, v, s, z, sh, zh)

Affricate – Complete blockage followed by a gradual release. Combination of stop and fricative (Ex: ch and j)

Approximant – Incomplete blockage and the airflow is smooth (Ex: ryw, and h)

Alternative Air Flow

Nasal – Complete blockage of air out the mouth; air freely flows out the nose (Ex: mnng)

Lateral – Complete blockage of air by the center of the tongue; air flows out the sides of the tongue (Ex: l)

Movement of the Tongue

Flap – Very short complete blockage of air, but doesn’t cause any pressure buildup or release burst (Ex: American English pronunciation of t and d between vowels)

Difference Between Articulation and Phonology

           A: Glottis, B: Pharynx and Epiglottis, C: Uvula, D: Velum, E: Palate, F: Alveolar Ridge,                            G: Teeth, H: Lips

What is Phonology

Phonology is the branch of linguistics that deals with the systematic organization of sounds in languages. It is the study of sounds, particularly different patterns of sounds in different languages. Phonology studies how sounds are combined together to form words and how words and sounds alternate in different languages. Thus, it is also concerned with history and theory of sound changes in a language or in two or more related languages.

According to linguists, phonetics belongs to theoretical linguistics since it is concerned with the function of sounds within a given language or across languages. It is different from phonetics which is concerned with the production of sound.

Main Difference - Articulation vs Phonology

Difference Between Articulation and Phonology


Articulation is the movement of the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs in order to make speech sounds.

Phonology is the branch of linguistics that deals with the systematic organization of sounds in languages.


Articulation is concerned with the production of sounds. Thus, it belongs to descriptive linguistics.

Phonology belongs to theoretical linguistics.

Image Courtesy:

“Major levels of linguistic structure” By  James J. Thomas and Kristin A. Cook (Ed.)derivative work: McSush (talk) – Major_levels_of_linguistic_structure.jpg, (Public Domain) via

“Places of articulation” (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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