This section of this Website provides a simplified discussion of phonology, or the study of speech-sounds. More detailed treatments are available at the sites listed under "Useful Sites" on the navigation bar to the left.
The cartoon above labels the parts of the human vocal apparatus that are relevant to the description of English phonemes, in some cases along with the corresponding adjectives. Phonemes can be thought of as instructions for articulating speech-sounds, and so a phoneme can be described in terms of the behavior of the vocal apparatus that occurs when a physiologically normal speaker articulates his or her particular representation of the phoneme.
Phonemes can be divided into consonants and vowels. In the articulation of consonants, the flow of air from the lungs through the vocal apparatus is cut off or impeded. In the articulation of vowels, the flow of air from the lungs is not impeded, but the vocal organs are used to change the shape of the oral cavity and thus make different sounds for different vowels.