Alveolar nasal

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For consonants followed by superscript ⁿ, see Nasal release.
Alveolar nasal
IPA number 116
Entity (decimal) n
Unicode (hex) U+006E
Kirshenbaum n
Braille ⠝ (braille pattern dots-1345)

The alveolar nasal is a type of consonantal sound used in numerous spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents dental, alveolar, and postalveolar nasals is n, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is n.

The vast majority of languages have either an alveolar or dental nasal. There are a few languages that lack either sound but have [m] (e.g. colloquial Samoan). There are some languages (e.g. Rotokas) that lack both [m] and [n].

True dental consonants are relatively uncommon. In the Romance, Dravidian, and Australian languages, n is often called "dental" in the literature. However, the rearmost contact (which is what gives a consonant its distinctive sound) is actually alveolar or denti-alveolar. The difference between the Romance languages and English is not so much where the tongue contacts the roof of the mouth, as which part of the tongue makes the contact. In English it is the tip of the tongue (such sounds are termed apical), whereas in the Romance languages it is the flat of the tongue just above the tip (such sounds are called laminal).

However, there are languages with true apical (or less commonly laminal) dental n. It is found in the South American language Mapudungun, where it is actually interdental. A true dental generally occurs allophonically before /θ/ in languages which have it, as in English tenth. Similarly, a denti-alveolar allophone will occur in languages which have denti-alveolar stops, as in Spanish cinta.

Some languages contrast laminal denti-alveolar and apical alveolar nasals. For example, in the Malayalam pronunciation of "Nārāyanan", the first "n" is dental, the second is retroflex, and the third alveolar.

A postalveolar nasal occurs in a number of Australian Aboriginal languages, including Djeebbana and Jingulu.[1]

Voiced alveolar nasal[edit]


Features of the alveolar nasal:



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe нэфнэ [nafna] 'light'
Arabic Standard نار [naːr] 'fire' See Arabic phonology
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic nora [noɾa:] 'mirror'
Basque ni [ni] 'I'
Catalan[2] nou [ˈnɔw] 'new' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Mandarin nán [nan˧˥] 'difficult' See Mandarin phonology
Czech na [na] 'on' See Czech phonology
Dutch[3] nacht [nɑxt] 'night' See Dutch phonology
English nice [naɪs] 'nice' See English phonology
Finnish annan [ˈɑnːɑn] 'I give' See Finnish phonology
Georgian[4] კა [ˈkʼɑni] 'skin'
German Lanze [ˈlant͡sə] 'lance' See German phonology
Greek νάμα náma [ˈnama] 'communion wine' See Modern Greek phonology
Gujarati હી [nəhi] 'no' See Gujarati phonology
Hawaiian[5] naka [naka] 'to shake' See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrew נבון [navon] 'wise' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindustani या / نیا [nəjaː] 'new' See Hindi–Urdu phonology
Italian[6] nano [ˈnäno] 'dwarf' See Italian phonology
Japanese[7] 反対 hantai [hantai] 'opposite' See Japanese phonology
Korean na [na] 'I' See Korean phonology
Kyrgyz[8] банан [baˈnan] 'banana'
Malay nasi [näsi] 'cooked rice'
Malayalam[9] കന്നി [kənni] 'virgin'
Maltese lenbuba [lenbuˈba] 'truncheon'
Marathi [nəkʰ] 'fingernail' See Marathi phonology
Ngwe Mmockngie dialect [nøɣə̀] 'sun'
Norwegian mann [mɑnː] 'man' See Norwegian phonology
Pirahã gíxai [níˈʔàì̯] 'you'
Polish[10] poncz [ˈpɔn̥t͡ʂ] 'punch (drink)' Allophone of /n/ [] before /t͡ʂ d͡ʐ/. See Polish phonology
Punjabi ਨੱਕ [nəkː] 'nose'
Slovak na [na] 'on'
Slovene[11] novice [nɔˈʋìːt̪͡s̪ɛ] 'news'
Spanish[12] nada [ˈnäð̞ä] 'nothing' See Spanish phonology
Tamil[13] நாடு [naːɽɯ] 'country' See Tamil phonology
Turkish neden [ne̞d̪æn] 'reason' See Turkish phonology
Vietnamese[14] bạn đi [ɓan˧ˀ˨ʔ ɗi] 'you're going' Occurs only before alveolar consonants. See Vietnamese phonology
Welsh nain [nain] 'grandmother' See Welsh phonology
West Frisian nekke [ˈnɛkə] 'neck'
Yi na [na˧ ] 'hurt'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[15] nanɨɨ [nanɨˀɨ] 'lady' contrasts with a fortis alveolar nasal that is not represented in the orthography.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Catalan[16] panxa ['pän̠ɕə][17] 'belly' Allophone of /n/ before /ʃ ʒ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/,[16] may be alveolo-palatal instead.[16] See Catalan phonology
Czech manželka [ˈman̠ʒelka] 'wife' Allophone of /n/ before postalveolar sibilants. See Czech phonology
Djeebbana[18] barnmarramarlón̠a [needs IPA] 'they two swam' Result of rhotic plus alveolar [n].[18]
English Australian[19] enrol [əṉˈɹ̠ɔo̯ɫ] 'enrol' Allophone of /n/ before /r/.[19] See Australian English phonology
Italian[20] con Gina [kon̠ʲ ˈd͡ʒiːnä] 'with Gina' Palatalized;[20] laminal.[20] Allophone of /n/ before /ʃ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/.[20] See Italian phonology

Dental or denti-alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Belarusian[21] новы [ˈn̪ovɨ] 'new' Laminal denti-alveolar. Contrasts with palatalized form. See Belarusian phonology
Bulgarian[22] жена [ʒɛˈn̪a] 'woman' Laminal denti-alveolar.
Catalan[16] cantar [kən̪ˈt̪ä(ɾ)] 'to sing' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d/.[16] See Catalan phonology
Dutch Belgian nicht [n̻ɪxt̻] 'niece', 'cousin' Laminal denti-alveolar, sometimes simply alveolar. See Dutch phonology
English Many speakers month [mʌn̪θ] 'month' Interdental. Allophone of /n/ before /θ/ and /ð/.
Scottish[23] no [n̪oː] 'no'

Laminal denti-alveolar. It may be alveolar instead for some speakers.[23][24]

French[25] connexion [kɔn̻ɛksjɔ̃] 'connection' Laminal denti-alveolar, sometimes simply alveolar. See French phonology
Greek[26] άνθος ánthos [ˈɐn̪θo̞s] 'flower' Interdental. Allophone of /n/. See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian[27] nagyi [ˈn̪ɒɟi] 'grandma' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Hungarian phonology
Italian[28][29] cantare [kän̪ˈt̪äːre] 'to sing' Laminal denti-alveolar.[29] Allophone of /n/ before /t d s z t͡s d͡z/.[28][29] See Italian phonology
Kashubian[30] [example needed] Laminal denti-alveolar.
Kazakh [example needed] Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d/.
Kyrgyz [example needed] Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d/.
Latvian[31] nakts [n̪äkt̪s̪] 'night' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Latvian phonology
Macedonian[32] нос [n̪o̞s̪] 'nose' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Macedonian phonology
Malayalam[9] പന്നി [pən̪n̪i] 'pig' Interdental for some speakers.
Mapudungun [l̪afken̪] 'sea, lake' Interdental.
Polish[10] nos [n̪ɔs̪] 'nose' Laminal denti-alveolar. Alveolar before /t͡ʂ d͡ʐ/. See Polish phonology
Portuguese General[33][34] nariz [n̻ɐˈɾiʃ] 'nose' Laminal denti-alveolar. May nasalize preceding vowel (especially if stressed). Has [ɲ̟] as allophone, forming from clusters with [j], and before /i/.
Vernacular Brazilian[35][36] percebendo [pe̞ʁse̞ˈbẽn̻u] 'perceiving' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /d/ after a stressed nasal vowel in more stigmatized varieties. See Portuguese phonology
Romanian[37] alună [äˈlun̪ə] 'hazelnut' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian студент / student [s̪t̪ǔd̪e̞n̪t̪] 'student' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d s z t͡s/. See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene amarant [amaˈɾaːn̪t̪] 'amaranth' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d s z t͡s/.
Spanish Most dialects cantar [kän̪ˈt̪är] 'to sing' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /n/ before /t d/. See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[38] nu [n̪ʉ̟ː] 'now' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Swedish phonology
Ukrainian[39] наш [n̪ɑʃ] 'our' Laminal denti-alveolar, contrasts with palatalized form. See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[40] [example needed] Laminal denti-alveolar.

Voiceless alveolar nasal[edit]

Voiceless alveolar nasal
IPA number 116 402A

The voiceless alveolar nasal is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represent this sound are and , combinations of the letter for the voiced alveolar nasal and a diacritic indicating voicelessness, either above or below the letter. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is n_0.


Features of the voiceless alveolar nasal:

  • Its manner of articulation is occlusive, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. Because the consonant is also nasal, the blocked airflow is redirected through the nose.
  • Its place of articulation is alveolar, postalveolar, denti-alveolar or dental, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the alveolar ridge, behind the alveolar ridge, behind upper front teeth or at the upper front teeth, termed respectively apical and laminal.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords.
  • It is a nasal consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the nose, either exclusively (nasal stops) or in addition to through the mouth.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Burmese[41] နှာ [n̥à] 'nose'
Central Alaskan Yup'ik[42] ceńa [t͡səˈn̥a] 'edge'
Estonian lasn [ˈlɑsn̥] 'wooden peel'
Jalapa Mazatec[43] [n̥ɛ] 'falls' Contrasts with a voiced and a laryngealized alveolar nasal.
Kildin Sami[44] чоӊтэ [t͡ʃɔn̥te] 'to turn'
Welsh[45] fy nhad [və n̥aːd] 'my father' Occurs as the nasal mutation of /t/. See Welsh phonology
Dental or denti-alveolar
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Icelandic hrafn [ˈr̥apn̪̊] 'raven' Laminal denti-alveolar. Also illustrates /r̥/. See Icelandic phonology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chadwick, Neil J. (1975). A descriptive study of the Djingili language. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 
  2. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:53)
  3. ^ Gussenhoven (1992:45)
  4. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006:255)
  5. ^ Ladefoged (2005:139)
  6. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:117)
  7. ^ Okada (1991:94)
  8. ^ Kara (2003:11)
  9. ^ a b Ladefoged (2005:165)
  10. ^ a b Rocławski (1976:136)
  11. ^ Pretnar & Tokarz (1980:21)
  12. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  13. ^ Keane (2004:111)
  14. ^ Thompson (1959:458–461)
  15. ^ Merrill (2008:108)
  16. ^ a b c d e Rafel (1999:14)
  17. ^ Valencian pronunciation: ['pän̠t͡ɕä]. Note that what's transcribed /ʃ ʒ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/ in Catalan are actually alveolo-palatal sibilants [ɕ ʑ t͡ɕ d͡ʑ].
  18. ^ a b Dixon (2002:585)
  19. ^ a b Mannell, Cox & Harrington (2009).
  20. ^ a b c d Canepari (1992:58–59)
  21. ^ Padluzhny (1989:49–50)
  22. ^ Klagstad Jr. (1958:46)
  23. ^ a b Scobbie, Gordeeva & Matthews (2006:4)
  24. ^ a b Wells (1982:388)
  25. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1993:73)
  26. ^ Arvaniti (2007:15)
  27. ^ Siptár & Törkenczy (2000:75–76)
  28. ^ a b Bertinetto & Loporcaro (2005:133)
  29. ^ a b c Canepari (1992:58)
  30. ^ Jerzy Treder. "Fonetyka i fonologia". 
  31. ^ Nau (1998:6)
  32. ^ Lunt (1952:1)
  33. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:91)
  34. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004:230)
  35. ^ (Portuguese) Unesp's digital collection – The deleting of /d/ in the morpheme of the gerund in São José do Rio Preto's accent
  36. ^ (Portuguese) The deletting of /d/ in the morpheme of the gerund in São José do Rio Preto's accent – PDF
  37. ^ Chițoran (2001:10)
  38. ^ Engstrand (1999:141)
  39. ^ Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:10)
  40. ^ Sjoberg (1963:12)
  41. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:111)
  42. ^ Jacobson (1995:3)
  43. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:107)
  44. ^ Kuruch (1985:529)
  45. ^ Jones (1984:51)


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