Uvular nasal

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Uvular nasal
IPA number 120
Entity (decimal) ɴ
Unicode (hex) U+0274
Kirshenbaum n"
Braille ⠔ (braille pattern dots-35) ⠝ (braille pattern dots-1345)

The uvular nasal is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is 〈ɴ〉, a small capital version of the Latin letter n.

The uvular nasal is a rare sound crosslingually, presumably due to the relative difficulty involved in articulating this sound.[1] The tiny oral cavity used to produce uvular consonants makes it difficult to sustain voicing, as well as to allow air to escape through the nose as is required for a nasal.[1]

The uvular nasal most commonly occurs as a conditioned allophone of other sounds in specific environments.[1] For example, as an allophone of /n/ before a uvular plosive as in Quechua. However, it occurs as an independent phoneme in a small number of languages, notably Klallam and the Papuan language known as Mapos Buang.[2] In the latter, the uvular nasal contrasts phonemically with a velar nasal, and both are regular speech sounds in the language.[2] This may be the only language known to contain this contrast in its regular sound system.

For a voiced pre-uvular nasal (also called post-velar), see voiced velar nasal.


Features of the uvular 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 uvular, which means it is articulated with the back of the tongue (the dorsum) at the uvula.
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • 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
Afrikaans Many speakers aangenaam [ˈɑːɴχənɑːm] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ before /χ/; realized as [n] in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology
Armenian անխելք [ɑɴˈχɛlkʰ] 'brainless' Allophone of /n/ before a uvular consonant in informal speech.
Dutch Netherlandic aangenaam [ˈaːɴχəˌnaːm] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ and /ŋ/ in dialects that use [χ]. Can be realized as [n] and [ŋ] instead, especially in formal speech.
Georgian ზიყი [ziɴqʼi] 'hip joint' Allophone of /n/.
Inuit Inuvialuktun namunganmun [namuŋaɴmuɴ] 'to where?' See Inuit phonology
Japanese[3] 日本/nihon [n̠ʲihõ̞ɴ] 'Japan' See Japanese phonology
Kalaallisut paarngorpoq [paaɴːoʁpoq] 'crawls'
Klallam sqəyáyŋəxʷ [sqəˈjajɴəxʷ] 'big tree' Contrasts with glottalized form.
Mapos Buang[2] alu [aˈl̪uɴ] 'widower' Phonemic, and contrasts with /ŋ/.
Quechua Peruvian sonqo [ˈs̠oɴqo] 'heart' Allophone of /n/.
Spanish[4] enjuto [ẽ̞ɴˈχuto̞] 'dry' Allophone of /n/. See Spanish phonology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bobaljik, Jonathan David (October 1996). "Assimilation in the Inuit Languages and the Place of the Uvular Nasal". International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp. 323-350 (The University of Chicago Press). 
  2. ^ a b c Hooley; Rambok, Bruce; Mose Lung (2010). Ḳapiya Tateḳin Buang Vuheng-atov Ayej = Central Buang–English Dictionary. Summer Institute of Linguistics, Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 9980035897. 
  3. ^ Okada (1991), p. 95.
  4. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 258.