Labio-velar Approximant
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Labio-velar Approximant
Voiced labial-velar approximant
IPA Number170
Entity (decimal)w
Unicode (hex)U+0077
Braille? (braille pattern dots-2456)
Audio sample
Compressed labial-velar approximant

The voiced labial-velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in certain spoken languages, including English. It is the sound denoted by the letter ⟨w⟩ in the English alphabet;[1] likewise, the symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨w⟩, or rarely [], 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.[2]

Some languages have a voiced labial-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 labial-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).
  • Its place of articulation is labialized velar, which means it is articulated with the back part of the tongue raised toward the soft palate (the velum) while rounding the lips. Some languages, such as Japanese and perhaps the Northern Iroquoian languages, have a sound typically transcribed as [w] where the lips are compressed (or at least not rounded), which is a true labial-velar (as opposed to labialized velar) consonant. Close transcriptions may avoid the symbol [w] in such cases, or may use the under-rounding diacritic, [w?].
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • 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
Abkhaz ??/auaòy [awa'] 'human' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe ?/ody 'thin'
Arabic Modern Standard[3] ‎/ward [ward] 'rose' See Arabic phonology
Assamese /washington [wa?i?t?n] 'Washington'
Assyrian ctava [cta:wa] 'book' Most speakers. and are used in the Urmia dialects.
Basque lau [law] 'four'
Belarusian ??/vo?k [v?wk] 'wolf' See Belarusian phonology
Bengali /uada [wada] 'promise' Allophone of and when preceding a vowel word-initially. See Bengali phonology
Berber ??/awal [æwæl] 'speech'
Catalan[4] creuar [k'wa] 'to cross' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Cantonese ?/waat 'dig' See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin ?/w? See Mandarin phonology
Dutch Colloquial kouwe ['k?u?w?] 'cold' Lenited allophone of /d/ after /?u?/. See Dutch phonology
Standard Surinamese welp [wp] 'cub' Corresponds to in the Netherlands and to in Belgium. See Dutch phonology
English weep [wi:p] 'weep' See English phonology
Esperanto a?to ['awto] 'car' See Esperanto phonology
French[5] oui [wi] 'yes' See French phonology
Hawaiian[6] wikiwiki [wikiwiki] 'fast' May also be realized as [v]. See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrew Oriental ‎/kowa? ['kowa?] 'power' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindustani[7] ? [wa:s] 'believe' See Hindustani phonology
Irish vóta ['wo:t] 'vote' See Irish phonology
Italian[8] uomo ['w?:mo] 'man' See Italian phonology
Kabardian ??/w? 'you'
Korean /waegari [w?i] 'heron' See Korean phonology
Luxembourgish[9] zwee [t?swe?:] 'two' Allophone of /v/ after /k, t?s, ?/.[10] See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay wang [wa?] 'money'
Mayan Yucatec witz [wit?s] 'mountain'
Nepali ? [w?k:il] 'lawyer' See Nepali phonology
Odia[11] /agraw?l [?gwäl] 'Agrawal'
Pashto ‎/war [w?r] 'one time'
Polish[12] ?aska 'grace' See Polish phonology. Corresponds to [?] in older pronunciation and eastern dialects
Portuguese[13] Most dialects quando ['kwdu] 'when' Post-lexically after and . See Portuguese phonology
boa ['bow.w?] 'good' (f.) Epenthetic glide or allophone of , following a stressed rounded vowel and preceding an unrounded one.[14]
General Brazilian qual ['kwaw] 'which' Allophone of in coda position for most Brazilian dialects.[13]
Romanian dul?u [d?u'lw] 'mastiff' See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian Croatian[15] vuk [wû:k] 'wolf' Allophone of /?/ before /u/.[15] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Seri cmiique ['kw:k:?] 'person' Allophone of /m/
Slovene[16][17] cerkev ['t?sè:rk?w] 'church' Allophone of /?/ in the syllable coda.[16][17] Voiceless before voiceless consonants. See Slovene phonology
Sotho sewa ['sewa] 'epidemic' See Sesotho phonology
Spanish[18] cuanto ['kwãn?t?o?] 'as much' See Spanish phonology
Swahili mwanafunzi [mw?n?funzi] 'student'
Swedish Central Standard[19] [example needed] Labialized approximant consonant; allophone of /?/ in casual speech before the protruded vowels /?, o:/. See Swedish phonology
Tagalog araw ['aw] 'day' See Tagalog phonology
Thai ?? /waen [w?n] 'ring'
Ukrainian ??/vo?k [v?wk] 'wolf' See Ukrainian phonology
Vietnamese[20] tu?n [t?w?n] 'week' See Vietnamese phonology
Welsh gwae [?wa?] 'woe' See Welsh phonology
West Frisian skowe [sko:w?] 'to shove'

See also


  1. ^ Instead of "pre-velar", it can be called "advanced velar", "fronted velar", "front-velar", "palato-velar", "post-palatal", "retracted palatal" or "backed palatal".
  1. ^ Guidelines for Transcription of English Consonants and Vowels (PDF); see the examples on the fifth page.
  2. ^ Ohala & Lorentz (1977), p. 577.
  3. ^ Watson (2002), p. 13.
  4. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 55.
  5. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 75.
  6. ^ Pukui & Elbert (1986), p. xvii.
  7. ^ Ladefoged (2005), p. 141.
  8. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004), p. 117.
  9. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), pp. 67, 69.
  10. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 69.
  11. ^ Masica (1991), p. 107.
  12. ^ Jassem (2003), p. 103.
  13. ^ a b Barbosa & Albano (2004), p. 230.
  14. ^ France (2004).
  15. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999), p. 68.
  16. ^ a b ?u?tar?i?, Komar & Petek (1999), p. 136.
  17. ^ a b Greenberg (2006), p. 18.
  18. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 256.
  19. ^ Engstrand (2004), p. 167.
  20. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458-461.


External links

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