The voiced labialized velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in certain spokenlanguages, including English. It is the sound denoted by the letter ⟨w⟩ in the English alphabet; likewise, the symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨w⟩, or rarely [ɰʷ], and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is w. In most languages it is the semivocalic counterpart of the close back rounded vowel[u]. In inventory charts of languages with other labialized velar consonants, /w/ will be placed in the same column as those consonants. When consonant charts have only labial and velar columns, /w/ may be placed in the velar column, (bi)labial column, or both. The placement may have more to do with phonological criteria than phonetic ones.
Some languages have a voiced labialized prevelar approximant,[a] which is more fronted than the place of articulation of the prototypical voiced labialized velar approximant, though not as front as the prototypical labialized palatal approximant.
Features of the voiced labialized velar approximant:
Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by narrowing the vocal tract at the place of articulation, but not enough to produce a turbulent airstream. The type of approximant is glide or semivowel. The term glide emphasizes the characteristic of movement (or 'glide') of /w/ from the /u/ vowel position to a following vowel position. The term semivowel emphasizes that, although the sound is vocalic in nature, it is not 'syllabic' (it does not form the nucleus of a syllable).
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