Linguolabial consonant

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Linguolabials or apicolabials[1] are consonants articulated by placing the tongue tip or blade against the upper lip, which is drawn downward to meet the tongue. They represent one extreme of a coronal articulatory continuum which extends from linguolabial to subapical palatal places of articulation. Cross-linguistically, linguolabial consonants are very rare. They are found in a cluster of languages in Vanuatu, in the Kajoko dialect of Bijago in Guinea-Bissau, in Umotína (a recently extinct Bororoan language of Brazil), and as paralinguistic sounds elsewhere. They are also relatively common in disordered speech, and the diacritic is specifically provided for in the extensions to the IPA.

Linguolabial consonants are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by adding the "seagull"[2] diacritic, U+033C ◌̼ COMBINING SEAGULL BELOW, to the corresponding alveolar consonant, or with the apical diacritic, U+033A ◌̺ COMBINING INVERTED BRIDGE BELOW, on the corresponding bilabial consonant.[3]


Sagittal section of linguolabial stop

Linguolabials are produced by constricting the airflow between the tongue and the upper lip. They are attested in a number of manners of articulation including stops, nasals, and fricatives, and can be produced with the tip of the tongue (apical), blade of the tongue (laminal), or the bottom of the tongue (sublaminal).[4][5] Acoustically they are more similar to alveolars than bilabials. Linguolabials can be distinguished from bilabials and alveolars acoustically by formant transitions and nasal resonances.[6]

List of consonants[edit]

(two transcriptions)
Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
linguolabial nasal Araki ana [n̼ana] "laugh"[7][8]
voiceless linguolabial plosive Tangoa ee [t̼et̼e] "butterfly"[9]
voiced linguolabial plosive Kajoko dialect of Bijago [nɔ̀d̼ɔ́ːɡ] "stone"[10]
prenasalized voiced linguolabial plosive Vao [nad̼ak] "bow"[9]
θ̼ ɸ̺ voiceless linguolabial fricative Big Nambas [ˈinɛθ̼] "he is asthmatic"
ð̼ β̺ voiced linguolabial fricative Tangoa atu [ð̼atu] "stone"[9]
ɾ̼ b̺̆ voiced linguolabial flap Kajoko dialect of Bijago [nɔ̀ɾ̼ɔ́ːɡ] "stone"[10]
linguolabial lateral approximant (common in disordered speech)
ɬ̼ voiceless linguolabial lateral fricative (in disordered speech)
ɮ̼ voiced linguolabial lateral fricative (in disordered speech)
ɺ̼ linguolabial lateral flap (uses lower lip) Piraha (part of allophone for /ɡ/, [ɺ͡ɺ̼]) toogixi [tòːɺ͡ɺ̼ìʔì] "hoe"[11]
ʙ̺ linguolabial trill
(uses lower lip)
Coatlán Zapotec (paralinguistic) r̼ʔ mimesis for a child's flatulence[12];(blowing a raspberry)
ǀ̼ or ʇ̼ ʘ̺ linguolabial click release (multiple consonants) Coatlán Zapotec (paralinguistic) kǀ̼ mimesis for eating soup or a pig drinking water[12]

Sound shifts[edit]

In Vanuatu, some of the Santo–Malekula languages have shifted historically from labial to dental consonants via an intermediate linguolabial stage, which remains in other Santo and Malekula languages. In Nese, for example, labials have become linguolabial before nonrounded vowels; in Tolomako, this has gone further, so that (POc *bebe >) p̈ep̈e 'butterfly' (/t̼et̼e/ in Tangoa) later became /tete/ in Tolomako; likewise, (POc *tama >) tam̈a 'father' (Tangoa /tan̼a/) became /tana/.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The term apicolabial is older, but Ladefoged and Maddieson point out that often these sounds are not apical.
  2. ^ Olson et al. (2009), p. 521.
  3. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K.; Ladusaw, William A. (1996). Phonetic Symbol Guide (2nd ed.). p. 256. ISBN 9780226685366. They note that the apical diacritic was added to the IPA after the linguolabial diacritic, and would have made the latter unnecessary.
  4. ^ Everett (1982).
  5. ^ Maddieson (1988), p. 350.
  6. ^ Maddieson (1988), pp. 364–367.
  7. ^ François, Alexandre (2002). Araki: A disappearing language of Vanuatu. Pacific Linguistics. Vol. 522. Canberra: Australian National University. pp. 15, 270. ISBN 0-85883-493-6.
  8. ^ Audio link: excerpt from a text in Araki language (sentence s75), showcasing the form m̈ana (source: Pangloss archive).
  9. ^ a b c Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:19)
  10. ^ a b Olson et al. (2009), p. 523.
  11. ^ Everett, Daniel Leonard (December 1982). "Phonetic rarities in Pirahã". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 12 (2): 94–96. doi:10.1017/S0025100300002498. JSTOR 44526660. S2CID 143928460. Retrieved 27 September 2023.
  12. ^ a b Beam de Azcona, Rosemary. "Sound Symbolism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2008-11-24.