Labial–velar consonant

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Tongue shape

Labial–velar consonants are doubly articulated at the velum and the lips, such as [k͡p]. They are sometimes called "labiovelar consonants", a term that can also refer to labialized velars, such as [kʷ] and the approximant [w].

Doubly articulated labial-velars[edit]

Truly doubly articulated labial-velars include the stops [k͡p, ɡ͡b] and the nasal [ŋ͡m]. To pronounce them, one must attempt to say the velar consonants but then close their lips for the bilabial component, and then release the lips. While 90% of the occlusion overlaps, the onset of the velar occurs slightly before that of the labial, and the release of the labial occurs slightly after that of the velar so the preceding vowel sounds as if it were followed by a velar, and the following vowel sounds as if it were preceded by a labial. The order of the letters in ⟨k͡p⟩ and ⟨ɡ͡b⟩ is therefore not arbitrary but motivated by the phonetic details of the sounds.

Phonemic labial–velars occur in the majority of languages in West and Central Africa (for example in the name of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast; they are found in many Niger–Congo languages as well as in the Ubangian, Chadic and Central Sudanic families), and are relatively common in the eastern end of New Guinea. In Southeast Asia, they occur in the Adu dialect of Nuosu (Yi), which aside from its isolated location, is unusual in having a relatively large inventory of labial-velar consonants, including the rare aspirated version: /k͡pʰ, k͡p, ɡ͡b, ᵑɡ͡b, ŋ͡m/.[1]

The Yele language of Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea, has both labial–velars and labial–alveolar consonants. Labial–velar stops and nasals also occur in Vietnamese but only word-finally.

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
k͡p voiceless labial–velar stop Logba ò-kpàyɔ̀ [ò-k͡pàjɔ̀] 'God'
ɡ͡b voiced labial–velar stop Ewe Ewegbe [ɛβɛɡ͡be] 'the Ewe language'
ŋ͡m labial-velar nasal Vietnamese cung [kuŋ͡m] 'sector'

These sounds are clearly single consonants rather than consonant clusters. For example, Eggon contrasts /bɡ/, /ɡb/, and /ɡ͡b/. The following possibilities are possible if tone is ignored:

Single consonant Two-consonant sequence
pom to pound kba to dig
abu a dog bɡa to beat, to kill
aku a room ak͡pki a stomach
ɡom to break ɡ͡bɡa to grind
k͡pu to die kpu to kneel
ɡ͡bu to arrive ɡba to divide

Allophonic labial-velars are known from Vietnamese, where they are variants of the plain velar consonants /k/ and /ŋ/.

Similar phonemes[edit]

Doubly articulated labial-velars with labialization[edit]

Some languages, especially in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu, combine the labial–velar consonants with a labial–velar approximant release: [k͡pʷ], [ŋ͡mʷ]. The extinct language Volow had a prenasalised labial-velar stop with labialization [ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡bʷ].[2]

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
k͡pʷ voiceless labial–velar stop with labialization Dorig rqa [rk͡pʷa][3] 'woman'
ŋ͡mʷ labial-velar nasal with labialization Vurës ē [ɪŋ͡mʷ] 'house'
ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡bʷ prenasalized voiced labial–velar stop with labialization Volow n-leevēn [nlɛᵑᵐɡ͡bʷɛβɪn] 'woman'

Other variants[edit]

Labial–velar stops also occur as ejective [k͡pʼ] and implosive [ɠ͡ɓ] (often written ⟨ɡ͡ɓ⟩); Floyd (1981) reports a voiceless implosive [ƙ͜ƥ] from Igbo. There may be voiced labio-velar approximants in languages like Japanese. Bilabial clicks are sometimes considered to be labial–velar consonants as well, but the velar articulation is part of the airstream mechanism.

Notation[edit]

For transcribing these sounds ligatures can occasionally be seen instead of digraphs with a tie bar:

Labial velars.png

Note that, although such symbols are readily understood, they are not sanctioned by the IPA, and have no Unicode values. They can, however, be specified as the way an OpenType font displays gb and kp digraphs.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hajek, Jhon (2006). "On doubly articulated labial-velar stops and nasals in Tibeto-Burman". Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman area (29.2): 127-130. 
  2. ^ See p.116 of: François, Alexandre (2005), "A typological overview of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu", Linguistic Typology, 9 (1): 115–146, doi:10.1515/lity.2005.9.1.115 .
  3. ^ See pp.429-430 of: François, Alexandre (2010), "Phonotactics and the prestopped velar lateral of Hiw: Resolving the ambiguity of a complex segment", Phonology, 27 (3): 393–434, doi:10.1017/s0952675710000205 

References[edit]