Uvular consonant

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be stops, fricatives, nasals, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and the symbol for the voiced fricative is used instead. Uvular affricates can certainly be made but are rare: they occur in some southern High-German dialects, as well as in a few African and Native American languages. (Ejective uvular affricates occur as realizations of uvular stops in Lillooet, Kazakh, or as allophonic realizations of the ejective uvular fricative in Georgian.) Uvular consonants are typically incompatible with advanced tongue root,[1] and they often cause retraction of neighboring vowels.

Uvular consonants in IPA[edit]

The uvular consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
ɴ̥ voiceless uvular nasal Lamo [example needed]
ɴ voiced uvular nasal Bai (Luobenzhuo dialect)[2] 我/nò [ɴɔ˦˨] 'I'
q voiceless uvular plosive Arabic قصّةٌ qiṣṣatun [qisˤˈsˤɑtun] 'a story'
ɢ voiced uvular plosive Inuktitut utirama [ʔutiɢama] 'because I return'
q͡χ voiceless uvular affricate Kabardian кхъэ [q͡χa] 'grave'
ɢ͡ʁ voiced uvular affricate Ekagi[3] gaati [ɢ͡ʁaːti] 'ten'
χ voiceless uvular fricative Peninsular Spanish enjuto [ẽ̞ɴˈχut̪o̞] 'skinny'
ʁ voiced uvular fricative French rester [ʁɛste] 'to stay'
ʁ̞ voiced uvular approximant Danish[4] rød [ʁ̞œ̠ð̠] 'red'
ʟ̠ voiced uvular lateral approximant English (some American speakers[5]) wool [wʊʟ̠] 'wool'
ɢ̆ voiced uvular flap Hiw[6] [βɔ̞ʀ̆] 'hibiscus'
ʀ̥ voiceless uvular trill French
triste [t̪ʀ̥is̪t̪œ] 'sad'
ʀ voiced uvular trill French
(20th century Paris accent)
Paris [paˈʀi] 'Paris'
ʀ̆ voiced uvular tap or flap Yiddish בריק [bʀ̆ɪk] 'bridge'
uvular ejective stop Quechua q'allu aʎu] 'section, piece, slice, sauce'
q͡χʼ uvular ejective affricate Georgian ოფა q'opa [q͡χʼɔpʰɑ] 'being/existence'
χʼ uvular ejective fricative Tlingit[8] 'aan [χʼàːn] 'fire'
ʛ voiced uvular implosive Konso[9] pogoota [poʛoːta] 'mandible'
ʛ̥ (ʠ) voiceless uvular implosive Mam[10] q'ootj [ʛ̥oːtʰχ] 'dough'

Descriptions in different languages[edit]

Uvular consonants are produced near marker 9.

English has no uvular consonants (at least in most major dialects), and they are largely unknown in the indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific, though uvular consonants separate from velar consonants are believed to have existed in the Proto-Oceanic language and are attested in the modern Formosan languages of Taiwan, while an uvular approximant may occur in Arrernte. Uvular consonants are, however, found in many Middle-Eastern and African languages, most notably Arabic and Somali, and in native American languages. In parts of the Caucasus mountains and northwestern North America, nearly every language has uvular stops and fricatives. Two uvular R phonemes are found in various languages in northwestern Europe, including French, some Occitan dialects, a majority of German dialects, some Dutch dialects, and Danish. Uvulars are almost unknown in the Indian subcontinent, but have been found in Malto[11] and Kusunda natively.[12] However, several languages spoken in the northwest of the subcontinent have loaned uvular consonants from Arabic and even Persian, especially languages that were spoken in places that were under Muslim rule for long periods of time, such as Punjabi.[13]

The voiceless uvular stop is transcribed as [q] in both the IPA and X-SAMPA. It is pronounced somewhat like the voiceless velar stop [k], but with the middle of the tongue further back on the velum, against or near the uvula. The most familiar use will doubtless be in the transliteration of Arabic place names such as Qatar and Iraq into English, though, since English lacks this sound, this is generally pronounced as [k], the most similar sound that occurs in English.

[qʼ], the uvular ejective, is found in Ubykh, Tlingit, Cusco Quechua, and some others. In Georgian, the existence of this phoneme is debatable, since the general realization of the letter "ყ" is /χʼ/. This is due to /qʰ/ merging with /χ/ and therefore /qʼ/ being influenced by this merger and becoming /χʼ/.

[ɢ], the voiced equivalent of [q], is much rarer. It is like the voiced velar stop [ɡ], but articulated in the same uvular position as [q]. Few languages use this sound, but it is found in Iranian Persian (and allophonicly in other varieties of Persian) and in some Northeast Caucasian languages, notably Tabasaran, and Pacific Northwest, such as Kwakʼwala. It may also occur as an allophone of another uvular consonant. In Kazakh, the voiced uvular stop is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative after the velar nasal.

The voiceless uvular fricative [χ] is similar to the voiceless velar fricative [x], except that it is articulated near the uvula. It is found in Georgian, and instead of [x] in some dialects of German, Spanish, and colloquial Arabic, as well as in some Dutch varieties and in standard Afrikaans.

Uvular flaps have been reported for Kube (Trans–New Guinea), Hamtai (Angan family), and for the variety of Khmer spoken in Battambang province.

The Enqi dialect of the Bai language has an unusually complete series of uvular consonants consisting of the stops /q/, /qʰ/ and /ɢ/, the fricatives /χ/ and /ʁ/, and the nasal /ɴ/.[14] All of these contrast with a corresponding velar consonant of the same manner of articulation.[14] The existence of the uvular nasal is especially unusual, even more so than the existence of the voiced stop.

The Tlingit language of the Alaska Panhandle has ten uvular consonants, all of which are voiceless obstruents:

Uvulars in Tlingit[15]
Description Orthographic IPA Gloss
tenuis stop ákw qákʷ 'tree spine'
aspirated stop ákw ákʷ 'basket'
ejective stop ḵʼákw akʷ 'screech owl'
labialized tenuis stop náaḵw náa 'octopus'
labialized aspirated stop ḵwáan qʷʰáan 'people, tribe'
labialized ejective stop ḵʼwátl qʷʼátɬ 'cooking pot'
voiceless fricative aakw χaakʷ 'fingernail'
ejective fricative x̱ʼáakw χʼáakʷ 'freshwater sockeye salmon'
labialized voiceless fricative x̱wastáa χʷastáa 'canvas, denim'
labialized ejective fricative x̱wʼáalʼ χʷʼáaɬʼ 'down (feathers)'

And the extinct Ubykh language of Turkey has twenty.

Phonological representation[edit]

In featural phonology, uvular consonants are most often considered to contrast with velar consonants in terms of being [–high] and [+back]. Prototypical uvulars also appear to be [-ATR].[1]

Two variants can then be established. Since palatalized consonants are [-back], the appearance of palatalized uvulars in a few languages such as Ubykh is difficult to account for. According to Vaux (1999), they possibly hold the features [+high], [-back], [-ATR], the last being the distinguishing feature from a palatalized velar consonant.

Uvular rhotics[edit]

The uvular trill [ʀ] is used in certain dialects (especially those associated with European capitals) of French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, as well as sometimes in Modern Hebrew, for the rhotic phoneme. In many of these it has a uvular fricative (either voiced [ʁ] or voiceless [χ]) as an allophone when it follows one of the voiceless stops /p/, /t/, or /k/ at the end of a word, as in the French example maître [mɛtχ], or even a uvular approximant [ʁ̞].

As with most trills, uvular trills are often reduced to a single contact, especially between vowels.

Unlike other uvular consonants, the uvular trill is articulated without a retraction of the tongue, and therefore doesn't lower neighboring high vowels the way uvular stops commonly do.

Several other languages, including Inuktitut, Abkhaz, Uyghur and some varieties of Arabic, have a voiced uvular fricative but do not treat it as a rhotic consonant. However, Modern Hebrew and some modern varieties of Arabic also both have at least one uvular fricative that is considered non-rhotic, and one that is considered rhotic.[citation needed]

In Lakhota the uvular trill is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative before /i/.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vaux, Bert (1999). "A Note on Pharyngeal Features". Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics.
  2. ^ Allen, Bryan (August 2007). "Bai Dialect Survey". SIL Electronic Survey Report 2007-012. CiteSeerX
  3. ^ Staroverov, Peter; Tebay, Soren (2019). "Posterior Affricate in Mee and Consonant-Vowel Place Interactions". Proceedings of the 2018 Annual Meeting on Phonology. LSA.
  4. ^ Basbøll (2005:66)
  5. ^ Cruttenden (2014), p. 221.
  6. ^ François (2005), p. 44.
  7. ^ Demolin (2001), pp. 65, 67–68, 70–71.
  8. ^ "Phoible 2.0 -".
  9. ^ Orkaydo (2013).
  10. ^ England, Nora C. (1983). A grammar of Mam, a Mayan language. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292729278. OCLC 748935484.
  11. ^ Steever, Sanford B. (2015). The Dravidian Languages. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-91164-4.
  12. ^ Watters (2005).
  13. ^ Menon, A.S.; Kusuman, K.K. (1990). A Panorama of Indian Culture: Professor A. Sreedhara Menon Felicitation Volume. Mittal Publications. p. 87. ISBN 9788170992141. Archived from the original on 9 February 2018. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  14. ^ a b Feng, Wang (2006). "Comparison of Languages in Contact: The Distillation Method and the Case of Bai" (PDF). Language and Linguistics Monograph Series B. Frontiers in Linguistics III.
  15. ^ Maddieson, Ian; Smith, Caroline L.; Bessell, Nicola (Summer 2001). "Aspects of the Phonetics of Tlingit". Anthropological Linguistics. 43: 140–141. JSTOR 30028779.