Epiglottal consonant

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Tongue shape

An epiglottal consonant is a consonant that is articulated with the aryepiglottic folds (see larynx) against the epiglottis. They are occasionally called aryepiglottal consonants.

Epiglottal consonants in the IPA[edit]

The epiglottal consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Xsampa-greaterthanslash.png voiceless epiglottal stop Aghul jaʡ[citation needed] 'center'
Xsampa-lessthanslash.png voiced epiglottal fricative or approximant Arabic تَعَشَّى tɑʢɑʃʃæ 'to have supper'
Xsampa-Hslash.png voiceless epiglottal fricative Aghul mɛʜ 'whey'
Epiglottal trill Amis ʼenem яə̆nə̆m 'seks'
  • A voiced epiglottal stop may not be possible. When an epiglottal stop becomes voiced intervocalically in Dahalo, for example, it becomes a tap.
  • Although traditionally placed in the fricative row of the IPA chart, ʢ is usually an approximant. The IPA symbol itself is ambiguous, but no language has a distinct fricative and approximant at this place of articulation. Sometimes the lowering diacritic is used to specify that the manner is approximant: ʢ̞.
  • Epiglottal trills are quite common (for epiglottals, that is), but this can usually be considered a phonemic stop or a fricative, with the trill being phonetic detail. The IPA has no symbol for this, though я is sometimes seen in the literature.


Epiglottals are not known from many languages. However, this may partially be an effect of the difficulty that linguists who speak European languages have in recognizing them; it is likely that supposedly pharyngeal consonants in many of the languages reported to possess them are in fact epiglottal in articulation.[1] This was discovered to be the case for Dahalo, for example.[citation needed]

Epiglottals are primarily known from Semitic languages of the Middle East. A voiceless epiglottal fricative is found in northern California in Achumawi, in Salishan languages immediately to the north, and in Wakashan languages of British Columbia (the "pharyngeal trills" in northern Haida are actually epiglottal). They also occur elsewhere, particularly in Northeast Caucasian languages such as Chechen.

Nevertheless, epiglottal consonants are phonemically contrastive with pharyngeals at least in one case, the Richa dialect of Aghul, a Northeast Caucasian Lezgic language spoken in Dagestan:[2] /ħaw/ "udder" vs. /ʜatʃ/ "apple"; /ʕan/ "belly" vs. /ʢakʷ/ "light".

In 1995 a new possible radical place of articulation, epiglotto-pharyngeal, was reported.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laufer, Asher, and I. D. Condax. 1979. The epiglottis as an articulator. UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 45:60-83.
  2. ^ Kodzasov, S. V. Pharyngeal Features in the Daghestan Languages. Proceedings of the Eleventh International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (Tallinn, Estonia, Aug 1-7 1987), pp. 142-144.