Glottal Stop
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Glottal Stop
Glottal stop
IPA Number113
Entity (decimal)ʔ
Unicode (hex)U+0294
Braille? (braille pattern dots-23)
Audio sample

The glottal stop or glottal plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages, produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract or, more precisely, the glottis. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨?⟩.

As a result of the obstruction of the airflow in the glottis, the glottal vibration either stops or becomes irregular with a low rate and sudden drop in intensity.[1]


Features of the glottal stop:[]

  • Its manner of articulation is occlusive, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. Since the consonant is also oral, with no nasal outlet, the airflow is blocked entirely, and the consonant is a stop.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibration of the vocal cords; necessarily so, because the vocal cords are held tightly together, preventing vibration.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the central-lateral 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.


Road sign in British Columbia showing the use of 7 to represent /?/ in Squamish.

In the traditional Romanization of many languages, such as Arabic, the glottal stop is transcribed with an apostrophe, ⟨ʼ⟩, which is the source of the IPA character ⟨?⟩. In many Polynesian languages that use the Latin alphabet, however, the glottal stop is written with a reversed apostrophe, ⟨ʻ⟩ (called 'okina in Hawaiian and Samoan), which is commonly used to transcribe the Arabic ayin as well (also ⟨ʽ⟩) and is the source of the IPA character for the voiced pharyngeal fricative?⟩. In Malay the glottal stop is represented by the letter ⟨k⟩, in Võro and Maltese by ⟨q⟩.

Other scripts also have letters used for representing the glottal stop, such as the Hebrew letter aleph ⟨?⟩ and the Cyrillic letter palochka ⟨?⟩, used in several Caucasian languages. Modern Latin alphabets for various Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus use the letter heng ('? ?'). In Tundra Nenets, it is represented by the letters apostrophe ⟨'⟩ and double apostrophe ⟨?⟩. In Japanese, glottal stops occur at the end of interjections of surprise or anger and are represented by the character ⟨?⟩.

In the graphic representation of most Philippine languages, the glottal stop has no consistent symbolization. In most cases, however, a word that begins with a vowel-letter (e.g. Tagalog aso, "dog") is always pronounced with an unrepresented glottal stop before that vowel (as in Modern German and Hausa). Some orthographies use a hyphen instead of the reverse apostrophe if the glottal stop occurs in the middle of the word (e.g. Tagalog pag-ibig, "love"; or Visayan gabi-i, "night"). If it occurs in the end of a word, the last vowel is written with a circumflex accent (known as the pakupyâ) if both a stress and a glottal stop occur in the final vowel (e.g. basâ, "wet") or a grave accent (known as the paiwà) if the glottal stop occurs at the final vowel, but the stress occurs at the penultimate syllable (e.g. batà, "child").[2][3][4]

Some Canadian indigenous languages, especially some of the Salishan languages, have adopted the phonetic symbol ? itself as part of their orthographies. In some of them, it occurs as a pair of uppercase and lowercase characters, ? and ?.[5] The numeral 7 or question mark is sometimes substituted for ? and is preferred in some languages such as Squamish. SEN?O?EN – which has unique alphabet – contrastly uses the comma ⟨,⟩ to represent the glottal stop, though it is optional.

In 2015, two women in the Northwest Territories challenged the territorial government over its refusal to permit them to use the ? character in their daughters' names: Sahai?a, a Chipewyan name, and Sakae?ah, a Slavey name (the two names are actually cognates). The territory argued that territorial and federal identity documents were unable to accommodate the character. The women registered the names with hyphens instead of the ?, while continuing to challenge the policy.[6]

Use of the glottal stop is a distinct characteristic of the Southern Mainland Argyll dialects of Scottish Gaelic. In such a dialect, the standard Gaelic phrase Tha Gàidhlig agam ("I speak Gaelic"), would be rendered Tha Gàidhlig a'am.[]


In English, the glottal stop occurs as an open juncture (for example, between the vowel sounds in uh-oh!,[7]) and allophonically in t-glottalization. In British English, the glottal stop is most familiar in the Cockney pronunciation of "butter" as "bu'er". Additionally, there is the glottal stop as a null onset for English, in other words, it is the non-phonemic glottal stop occurring before isolated or initial vowels (for example, representing uh-oh!, ['o?] and ['o?] are phonemically identical to /'?.o?/).

Often a glottal stop happens at the beginning of vowel phonation after a silence.[1]

Although this segment is not a phoneme in English, it occurs phonetically in nearly all dialects of English, as an allophone of /t/ in the syllable coda. Speakers of Cockney, Scottish English and several other British dialects also pronounce an intervocalic /t/ between vowels as in city. In Received Pronunciation, a glottal stop is inserted before a tautosyllabic voiceless stop: stoʼp, thaʼt, knoʼck, waʼtch, also leaʼp, soaʼk, helʼp, pinʼch.[8][9]

In many languages that do not allow a sequence of vowels, such as Persian, the glottal stop may be used to break up such a hiatus. There are intricate interactions between falling tone and the glottal stop in the histories of such languages as Danish (see stød), Chinese and Thai.[]

In many languages, the unstressed intervocalic allophone of the glottal stop is a creaky-voiced glottal approximant. It is known to be contrastive in only one language, Gimi, in which it is the voiced equivalent of the stop.[]

The table below demonstrates how widely the sound of glottal stop is found among the world's spoken languages. It is not intended to be a complete list. Any of these languages may have varieties not represented in the table.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz [?aj] 'no' See Abkhaz phonology.
Adyghe ?? [?a] 'arm/hand'
Arabic Modern Standard[10] [?a'?a:ni:] 'songs' See Arabic phonology, Hamza.
Levantine and Egyptian[11] ['?ææ] 'apartment' Levantine and Egyptian dialects.[11] Corresponds to or in other dialects.
Fasi and Tlemcenian[12] ['?a:l] 'he said' Fasi and Tlemcenian dialects. Corresponds to or in other dialects.
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic [st] 'clock/watch'
Azeri ?r [?ær] 'husband'
Bikol ba-go ['ba:o] 'new'
Bulgarian ?-? ['] 'nope' See Bulgarian phonology.
Burmese [mji? mjà] 'rivers'
Cebuano tubò ['tubo?] 'to grow'
Chamorro haluʼu [h?lu?u] 'shark'
Chechen ? / qoʼ [qo?] 'three'
Chinese Cantonese ?/oi3 [:i?] 'love' See Cantonese phonology.
Wu [?i.t?i.?l] 'superb'
Cook Islands M?ori taʻi [ta?i] 'one'
Czech pou?ívat [po?u?i:vat] 'to use' See Czech phonology.
Dahalo [ma?a] 'water' see Dahalo phonology
Danish hånd ['hn?] 'hand' One of the possible realizations of stød. Depending on the dialect and style of speech, it can be instead realized as laryngealisation of the preceding sound. See Danish phonology.
Dutch[13] beamen [b'a:m?(n)] 'to confirm' See Dutch phonology.
English RP uh-oh ['?] 'uh-oh'
Australian cat [k?æ?(t)] 'cat' Allophone of /t/. See glottalization and English phonology.
Estuary [k?æ?]
Cockney[14] [k?]
Scottish [k?ä?]
Northern England the [?] 'the'
RP[15] and GA button 'button'
Finnish sadeaamu ['s?de:mu] 'rainy morning' See Finnish phonology.[16]
German Northern Beamter [b?'?amt?] 'civil servant' See Standard German phonology.
Guaraní avañeʼ? [ãã'] 'Guaraní' Occurs only between vowels.
Hawaiian[17] ʻeleʻele ['l?'l?] 'black' See Hawaiian phonology.
Hebrew [mamar] 'article' Often elided in casual speech. See Modern Hebrew phonology.
Icelandic en [n] 'but' Only used according to emphasis, never occurring in minimal pairs.
Iloko nalab-ay [nalab'?aj] 'bland tasting' Hyphen when occurring within the word.
Indonesian bakso [?bä?'so] 'meatball' Allophone of /k/ or /?/ in the syllable coda.
Irish m'fháinne [mn'?] 'my ring' Occurs initially and medially, but never finally.
Japanese Kagoshima [ga?ko:] 'school' Marked by '?' in Hiragana, and by '?' in Katakana.
Javanese[18] anak [änä?] 'child' Allophone of /k/ in morpheme-final position.
Jedek[19] [w] 'left side'
Kabardian ?? [?a] 'arm/hand'
Kagayanen[20] saag [sa'?a?] 'floor'
Khasi lyoh [l:?] 'cloud'
Korean ? [?il] 'one' In free variation with no glottal stop. Occurs only in initial position of a word.
Malay tidak ['tidä?] 'no' Allophone of final /k/ in the syllable coda, pronounced before consonants or at end of word.
Maltese qattus ['?attus] 'cat'
M?ori Taranaki, Whanganui wahine [wa?in?] 'woman'
Minangkabau waʼang [wä?ä?] 'you' Sometimes written without an apostrophe.
Mutsun tawkaʼli [tawka?li] 'black gooseberry' Ribes divaricatum
Mingrelian [r?p] 'love'
Nahuatl tahtli 'father' Often left unwritten.
Nez Perce yáaka? ['ja:ka?] 'black bear'
Nheengatu[21] ai [a'?i] 'sloth' Transcription (or absence thereof) varies.
Okinawan ? [?utu] 'sound'
Persian ? [ma?ni] 'meaning' See Persian phonology.
Polish Most often occurs as an anlaut of an initial vowel (Ala -> [?ala]). See Polish phonology#Glottal stop.
Pirahã baíxi ['màíì] 'parent'
Portuguese[22] Vernacular Brazilian ê-ê[23] [e?'?e:] 'yeah right'[24] Marginal sound. Does not occur after or before a consonant. In Brazilian casual speech, there is at least one [?]-vowel length-pitch accent minimal pair (triply unusual, the ideophones short ih vs. long ih). See Portuguese phonology.
Some speakers à aula ['a '?awl?] 'to the class'
Rotuman[25] ?usu [?usu] 'to box'
Samoan maʻi [ma?i] 'sickness/illness'
Sardinian[26] Some dialects of Barbagia unu pacu ['u:nu pa?u] 'a little' Intervocalic allophone of /n, k, l/.
Some dialects of Sarrabus sa luna [sa ?u?a] 'the moon'
Serbo-Croatian[27] i onda [iô?n?d?a?] 'and then' Optionally inserted between vowels across word boundaries.[27] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Seri he [] 'I'
Spanish Nicaraguan[28] s alto ['ma '?al?t?o?] 'higher' Marginal sound or allophone of between vowels in different words. Does not occur after or before a consonant. See Spanish phonology.
Yucateco[29] cuatro años ['kwat?o? '?ã?o?s] 'four years'
Tagalog oo [o?o] 'yes' See Tagalog phonology.
Tahitian puaʻa [pua?a] 'pig'
Thai ?? [?a:] 'uncle/aunt' (father's younger sibling)
Tongan tuʻu [tu?u] 'stand'
Tundra Nenets ʼ [w] 'tundra'
Vietnamese[30] oi [j?] 'sultry' In free variation with no glottal stop. See Vietnamese phonology.
Võro piniq ['pin?i?] 'dogs' "q" is Võro plural marker (maa, kala, "land", "fish"; maaq, kalaq, "lands", "fishes").
Wagiman jamh [tm?] 'to eat' (perf.)
Welayta [?ir?a] 'wet'
Wallisian maʻuli [ma?uli] 'life'

See also


  1. ^ a b Umeda N., "Occurrence of glottal stops in fluent speech", J. Acoust. Soc. Am., vol. 64, no. 1, 1978, pp. 88-94.
  2. ^ Paul Morrow (March 16, 2011). "The basics of Filipino pronunciation: Part 2 of 3 o accent marks". Pilipino Express. Retrieved 2012.
  3. ^ Ricardo M.D. Nolasco. Grammar notes on the national language (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Joan Schoellner & Beverly D. Heinle, ed. (2007). Tagalog Reading Booklet (PDF). Simon & Schister's Pimsleur. pp. 5-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-27. Retrieved .
  5. ^ "Proposal to add LATIN SMALL LETTER GLOTTAL STOP to the UCS" (PDF). 2005-08-10. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Browne, Rachel (12 March 2015). "What's in a name? A Chipewyan's battle over her native tongue". Maclean's. Retrieved 2015.
  7. ^ Mastering Hebrew, 1988, ISBN 0812039904, p. xxviii
  8. ^ Brown, Gillian. 1977:27. Listening to spoken English. London: Longman.
  9. ^ Kortlandt, Frederik (1993). "General Linguistics & Indo-European Reconstruction" (PDF).
  10. ^ Thelwall (1990:37)
  11. ^ a b Watson (2002:17)
  12. ^ Dendane, Zoubir. (2013). THE STIGMATISATION OF THE GLOTTAL STOP IN TLEMCEN SPEECH COMMUNITY: AN INDICATOR OF DIALECT SHIFT. The International Journal of Linguistics and Literature. Volume 2. [1]
  13. ^ Gussenhoven (1992:45)
  14. ^ Sivertsen (1960:111)
  15. ^ Roach (2004:240)
  16. ^ Collinder, Björn (1941). Lärobok i finska språket för krigsmakten. Ivar Häggström. p. 7.
  17. ^ Ladefoged (2005:139)
  18. ^ Clark, Yallop & Fletcher (2007:105)
  19. ^ Yager, Joanne; Burtenhult, Niclas (December 2017). "Jedek: A newly-discovered Aslian variety of Malaysia" (PDF). Linguistic Typology. 21 (3). doi:10.1515/lingty-2017-0012. hdl:11858/00-001M-0000-002E-7CD2-7 – via deGruyter.
  20. ^ Olson et al. (2010:206-207)
  21. ^ Fonologia e Gramática do Nheengatu - A língua geral falada pelos povos Baré, Warekena e Baniwa Archived 2014-03-07 at the Wayback Machine (in Portuguese)
  22. ^ João Veloso & Pedro Tiago Martins (2013). O Arquivo Dialetal do CLUP: disponibilização on-line de um corpus dialetal do português (in Portuguese)
  23. ^ Phonetic symbols for Portuguese phonetic transcription Archived 2014-11-08 at the Wayback Machine In European Portuguese, the "é é" interjection usually employs an epenthetic /i/, being pronounced [e?'je?] instead.
  24. ^ It may be used mostly as a general call of attention for disapproval, disagreement or inconsistency, but also serves as a synonym of the multiuse expression "eu, hein!". (in Portuguese) How to say 'eu, hein' in English - Adir Ferreira Idiomas Archived 2013-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ Blevins (1994:492)
  26. ^ Su sardu limba de Sardigna et limba de Europa, Lucia Grimaldi & Guido Mensching, 2004, CUEC, pp.110-111
  27. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999:67)
  28. ^ The hypo-hyperarticulation continuum in Nicaraguan Spanish
  29. ^ Voiceless stop aspiration in Yucatán Spanish: a sociolinguistic analysis
  30. ^ Thompson (1959:458-461)


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