Uvular Nasal
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Uvular Nasal
Voiced uvular nasal
IPA Number120
Entity (decimal)ɴ
Unicode (hex)U+0274
Braille? (braille pattern dots-35)? (braille pattern dots-1345)
Audio sample

The voiced 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 ⟨?⟩, a small capital version of the Latin letter n; the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is N\.

The uvular nasal is a rare sound cross-lingually, occurring as a phoneme in only a small handful of languages. It is an articulatory complex and highly marked sound, as it is inherently difficult to produce a nasal articulation at the uvular point of contact.[1] This articulatory difficulty can be said to account for the marked rarity of this sound among the world's languages.[1]

The uvular nasal most commonly occurs as a conditioned allophone of other sounds,[2] for example as an allophone of /n/ before a uvular plosive as in Quechua, or as an allophone of /q/ before another nasal consonant as in Selkup. However, it has been reported to exist as an independent phoneme in a small number of languages. Examples include the Klallam language, the Tawellemmet and Ayr varieties of Tuareg Berber,[3] the Rangakha dialect of Khams Tibetan,[4] at least two dialects of the Bai language,[5][6] and the Papuan language Mapos Buang.[7] In Mapos Buang and in the Bai dialects, it contrasts phonemically with a velar nasal.[5][6][7]

There is also the pre-uvular nasal[8] in some languages such as Yanyuwa, which is articulated slightly more front compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical uvular nasal, though not as front as the prototypical velar nasal. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ⟨⟩ (advanced?⟩), ⟨⟩ or ⟨⟩ (both symbols denote a retracted?⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are N\_+ and N_-, respectively.


Features of the voiced 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.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • 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 ['?:n?:m] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ before /?/; realized as in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic Standard [.q'læ:b] 'coup d'état' Allophone of /n/ before /q/; more commonly realized as .
Armenian ??? ['lk?] 'brainless' Allophone of /n/ before a uvular consonant in informal speech.
Dutch Netherlandic aangenaam ['a:?na:m] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ and /?/ in dialects that use . Can be realized as in formal speech.
Georgian ? [zi?q'i] 'hip joint' Allophone of /n/ before uvular consonants.
Inuvialuktun namunganmun [namu?a?mu?] 'to where?' See Inuit phonology
Japanese[9] ?/hon [hõ:] 'book' Tongue closure may be incomplete. See Japanese phonology
Kalaallisut paarngorpoq [paa?:o?poq] 'crawls' See Inuit phonology
Klallam sq?yáy??x? [sq?'jajx?] 'big tree' Contrasts with glottalized form.
Mapos Buang[7] alun? [a'l?u?] 'widower' Phonemic, and contrasts with /?/.
Bai Enqi dialect[6] [?a] 'to walk' Phonemic, and contrasts with /?/.
Luobenzhuo dialect[5] ? [?] 'I' Phonemic, and contrasts with /?/.
Quechua Peruvian sunqu ['s?o?qo] 'heart' Allophone of /n/.
Spanish[10] enjuto ['?uto?] 'shriveled' Allophone of /n/. See Spanish phonology
Yanyuwa[11] wangulu [waulu] 'adolescent boy' Pre-uvular; contrasts with post-palatal .[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b Johnson, Marion (1978). "A note on the Inuit uvular nasal". Études/Inuit/Studies. 2 (1): 132-135.
  2. ^ Bobaljik, Jonathan David (October 1996). "Assimilation in the Inuit Languages and the Place of the Uvular Nasal". International Journal of American Linguistics. The University of Chicago Press. 62 (4): 323-350. doi:10.1086/466303. JSTOR 1265705.
  3. ^ Karl Prasse, Ghoubeid Alojaly, and Ghabdouane Mohamed (1998). Lexique touareg-français. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Suzuki, Hiroyuki (2007). "Khams Tibetan Rangakha dialect: phonetic analysis (in Japanese)" (PDF). Asian and African Languages and Linguistics (2): 131-162.
  5. ^ a b c Allen, Bryan (August 2007). "Bai Dialect Survey". SIL Electronic Survey Report 2007-012. CiteSeerX
  6. ^ a b c 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.
  7. ^ a b c Hooley; Rambok, Bruce; Mose Lung (2010). ?apiya Tate?in Buang Vuheng-atov Ayej = Central Buang-English Dictionary. Summer Institute of Linguistics, Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 978-9980035899.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Instead of "pre-uvular", it can be called "advanced uvular", "fronted uvular", "post-velar", "retracted velar" or "backed velar". For simplicity, this article uses only the term "pre-uvular".
  9. ^ Vance (2008), p. 96.
  10. ^ Martínez Celdrán, Fernández Planas & Carrera Sabaté (2003), p. 258.
  11. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 34-35.


External links

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