Labiodental Nasal
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Labiodental Nasal
Voiced labiodental nasal
IPA Number115
Entity (decimal)ɱ
Unicode (hex)U+0271
Braille? (braille pattern dots-235)? (braille pattern dots-134)
Audio sample

The voiced labiodental nasal is a type of consonantal sound. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨?⟩. The IPA symbol is a lowercase letter m with a leftward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter. Occasionally it is instead transcribed as an m with a dental diacritic: ⟨m?⟩.

The labiodental pronunciation of [?] is very similar to that of the bilabial nasal [m], but instead of the lips touching each other, the lower lip touches the upper teeth. The position of the lips and teeth is generally the same as for the production of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], though air escapes between the lip and the teeth in the case of the fricatives.

Although commonly appearing in languages, it is overwhelmingly an allophone restricted to a position before the labiodental consonants [f] and [v]. A phonemic /?/ has only been reported for the Kukuya language, which contrasts it with /m, mpf, mbv/ and is "accompanied by strong protrusion of both lips". It is [] before /a/ and [?] before /i/ and /e/, perhaps because labialization is constrained by the spread front vowels; it does not occur before the back (rounded) vowels /o/ and /u/.[1]

It is doubted by some scholars that true closure can be made by a labiodental gesture because of gaps between the incisors, which for many speakers would allow air to flow during the occlusion.[2] This is particularly pertinent considering that one of the Kukuya words with this consonant, /?áá/, means a 'gap between filed incisors,'[3] a practice of the local people. The /?/ might therefore be better characterized as a labiodental nasal approximant than as a nasal occlusive.

Nonetheless, [?] is extremely common around the world phonetically, as it is the universal allophone of /m/ and a very common allophone of /n/ before the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], as for example in English comfort and circumvent, and, for many people, infinitive and invent. In the Angami language, [?] occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /?/. In Drubea, [?] is reported as an allophone of /v/ before nasal vowels.[4]

A proposal to retire the letter ⟨?⟩ was made in the run-up to the Kiel Convention of 1989, with the labiodental nasal to be transcribed solely by ⟨m?⟩, but the proposal was defeated in committee.[5][6]


Features of the voiced labiodental 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 labiodental, which means it is articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.
  • 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 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.


Phonemic /?/ is extremely rare. As an allophone of nasal consonants before [f] or [v], however, [?] is very common.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arabic Hejazi ‎/gurunful [g?rf?l] 'clove' See Hejazi Arabic phonology
Catalan mfora ['ka?fu] 'camphor' See Catalan phonology
Czech tramvaj ['tra?vaj] 'tram' See Czech phonology
Danish symfoni [sy?fo'ni?] 'symphony' See Danish phonology
Dutch[7][8] omvallen ['v?l?(n)] 'to fall over' See Dutch phonology
English symphony 'symphony' See English phonology
Finnish kamferi ['kfe?ri] 'camphor' See Finnish phonology
German nf [ff] 'five' See German phonology
Greek[9] ???/émvryo ['evrio?] 'embryo' Learned or careful pronunciation. See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew ?‎/simfonya [si?'fonja] 'symphony' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hungarian hamvad ['hv?d] 'smoulder' See Hungarian phonology
Italian[10] invece [i?'ve:te] 'instead' See Italian phonology
Kukuya[11] [?íì] 'eyes' Phonemic, distinguishes /m/ and /?/.
Macedonian ?/tramvaj [tra?'vaj] 'tram' See Macedonian phonology
Norwegian komfyr [k'fy:?] 'stove' See Norwegian phonology
Polish symfonia [s'fä] 'symphony' See Polish phonology
Romanian înva [v?'t?sä] 'to learn' See Romanian phonology
Russian ???/amfora ['a?f?r?] 'amphora' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[12] ? / tramvaj [träj] 'tram' Allophone of and before and .[12] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene[13] simfonija [si?f?'ní:ja] 'symphony' Allophone of and before and .[13]
Spanish[14] influir [i?flu'i?] 'to have influence' See Spanish phonology
Swedish amfibie [a?'fi:bj?] 'amphibia' See Swedish phonology
West Frisian ûnwis [u:?'s] 'unsure' Allophone of /n/ before labiodental sounds.


? () [?o:?] 'wear' Was briefly phonemic before merging with /m/.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Paulian (1975:57)
  2. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:18)
  3. ^ Paulian (1975:40)
  4. ^ Hajek, John (2009). "Labiodental ? in Drubea". Oceanic Linguistics. 48 (2).
  5. ^ Heselwood (2013) Phonetic transcription in theory and practice
  6. ^ JIPA 18(2) p.85.
  7. ^ Kooij & Van Oostendorp (2003:9)
  8. ^ Verhoeven (2005:243)
  9. ^ Newton (1972:10)
  10. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:118)
  11. ^ Paulian (1975:41)
  12. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999:67)
  13. ^ a b ?u?tar?i?, Komar & Petek (1999:136)
  14. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:258)
  15. ^ Norquest (2007:107)


  • Kooij, Jan; Van Oostendorp, Marc (2003), Fonologie: uitnodiging tot de klankleer van het Nederlands, Amsterdam University Press, ISBN 9789053566220
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), Sounds of the World's Languages, Blackwells
  • Landau, Ernestina; Lon?ari?, Mijo; Horga, Damir; ?kari?, Ivo (1999), "Croatian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 66-69, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 255-259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
  • Newton, Brian (1972), The generative Interpretation of Dialect: A Study of Modern Greek Phonology, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 8, Cambridge University Press
  • Paulian, Christiane (1975), Le Kukuya Langue Teke du Congo: phonologie, classes nominales, Peeters Publishers
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 117-121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
  • ?u?tar?i?, Rastislav; Komar, Smiljana; Petek, Bojan (1999), "Slovene", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 135-139, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2005), "Belgian Standard Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 243-247, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002173
  • Norquest, Peter K. (2007). A phonological reconstruction of Proto-Hlai (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Arizona. hdl:10150/194203. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-07-14.

External links

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