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Gregory Gadow wrote:
> In it's writing system, my conlang, Glörsa, has two tables giving its
> consonants, one voiced and one unvoiced. In the unvoiced table is the
> unvoiced glottal fricative, [h]. The table of voiced consonants has a
> voiced equivalent, which I've been transcribing as w. Phonetically, I've
> been thinking of this sound as the open-mid back rounded vowel, [V]. But
> looking at the IPA charts, I found that there is, in fact, a voiced
> glottal fricative, [h\]. So: what is the difference in pronounciation
> between [V] and [h\]?

It's difficult for English speakers to segment out, even though we often
produce it in casual speech. Have you checked out the various IPA sites with
sound samples?? I've found some techniques for producing [h\]:
1. as the difference between glottal stop onset to a vowel vs. smooth onset,
esp. [a]-- [?a] vs. [..a]. Such a contrast exists in some Polynesian
languages, and Arabic (the letter is called _ayin_ IIRC).

2. produce two [a]'s in a row, but as distinct syllables-- imagine a word
that is pfx. ma- + ána [ma.'ana]; the segment between the two will be [h\].
Or pronounce "aha!" or "bah humbug" but deliberately voice the h-- there you
have it.

3. Now try it with other vowels, making an effort to avoid producing a [?]
or glide-- [oh\o] not [o(?w)o] as in "so open", [ih\i not [i(?j)i] "be
equal".  Actually, in the phonological system of a language that has /h\/,
it might well be realized phonetically as the glide in such cases.
>
> And just out of curiosity, what is the technical difference between a
> vowel and a consonant? Is it just a difference in how syllables are
> constructed, to where a vowel and consonant can actually have the same
> sound but get used (and therefore classed) differently?

It has to do with (a) at least some constriction in the vocal tract for
consonants vs. none for vowels and (b) ability to function as a syllable
peak. Both of these together serve to distinguish [w/u] and [j/i].  Of
course, it's quite difficult to define "syllable" in phonetic terms....;-(