Pharyngeal consonant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tongue shape

A pharyngeal consonant is a type of consonant which is articulated with the root of the tongue against the pharynx. Epiglottals and epiglotto-pharyngeals are often mistakenly taken to be pharyngeal.

Pharyngeal consonants in the IPA[edit]

Pharyngeal consonants in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA):

IPA Description Example (Somali)
Orthography IPA Meaning
Xsampa-qmarkslash.png pharyngeal approximant caadi [ʕaːdi] normal[citation needed]
Xsampa-Xslash.png voiceless pharyngeal fricative xood About this sound [ħol]  cane[citation needed]
  • Although traditionally placed in the fricative row of the IPA chart, [ʕ] 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: [ʕ̞].
  • When pharyngeal stops are posited, they are sometimes transcribed with a small capital Q, Q. However, no language makes such sounds consistently, and most so-called pharyngeal stops are more precisely epiglottal.[1]


Pharyngeals are known primarily from three areas of the world: in North-Africa/Mideast (in the Semitic, Berber, and Cushitic language families); in the Caucasus (in the Northwest Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian language families); and in British Columbia (in the Salishan, and Wakashan language families). There are scattered reports of pharyngeals elsewhere, such as in the Nilo-Saharan Tama language. In Finnish, a weak pharyngeal fricative is the realization of /h/ after the vowels /ɑ/ or /æ/ in syllable-coda position, e.g. [tæħti] 'star', but since this is mere allophony, it is transcribed as /h/. According to the laryngeal theory, the Proto-Indo-European language might also have contained pharyngeal consonants.

Note that reported pharyngeals frequently turn out to be epiglottals. Such was the case for Dahalo and northern Haida, for example, and is likely to be true for many if not most of the others. This is perhaps because 'epiglottal' was only recently recognized as a distinct place of articulation, rather than a variant of 'pharyngeal'. Contrastive pharyngeals and epiglottals are known only from the Richa dialect of Aghul, a Lezgian language of Dagestan:[2] /ħaw/ "udder" vs. /ʜatʃ/ "apple" and /ʕan/ "belly" vs. /ʢakʷ/ "light".

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 37. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 
  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.

General references[edit]