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Glottal stop
IPA number 113
Entity (decimal) ʔ
Unicode (hex) U+0294
Kirshenbaum ?
[[File:Template:IPA audio filename| center| 150px]]

[create] Documentation

The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. In English, the feature is represented, for example, by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or ʻokina in Hawaiʻi among those using a preservative pronunciation of that name.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʔ⟩. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal folds, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis.

Phonetic and phonological features

Features of the glottal stop:

  • Its manner of articulation is stop, or plosive, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. (The term plosive contrasts with nasal stops, where the blocked airflow is redirected through the nose.)
  • 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 centrallateral 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.

Phonology and symbolization of the glottal stop in selected languages

While this segment is not a written[1] phoneme in English, it is present 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. Standard English inserts a glottal stop before a tautosyllabic voiceless plosive, e.g. sto’p, tha’t, kno’ck, wa’tch, also lea’p, soa’k, hel’p, pin’ch.[2]

In many languages that don't 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 (cf. stød), Chinese and Thai.[citation needed]

In the traditional Romanization of many languages, such as Arabic, the glottal stop is transcribed with an apostrophe, ⟨⟩, and this is the source of the IPA character ⟨ʔ⟩. In many Polynesian languages that use the Latin alphabet, however, the glottal stop is written with a reversed apostrophe, ⟨⟩ (called ‘okina in Hawaiian), which, confusingly, is also used to transcribe the Arabic ayin and is the source of the IPA character for the voiced pharyngeal fricativeʕ⟩. 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 ⟨א⟩, and the Cyrillic letter palochka ⟨Ӏ⟩ used in several Caucasian languages. In Tundra Nenets it is represented by the letters apostropheʼ⟩ and double apostropheˮ⟩. 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 also in Modern German and Hausa). Some orthographies employ a hyphen, instead of the reverse apostrophe, if the glottal stop occurs in the middle of the word (e.g. Tagalog pag-ibig 'love'). When it occurs in the end of a Tagalog word, the last vowel is written with a circumflex accent (if the accent is on the last syllable) or a grave accent (if the accent occurs at the penultimate syllable).

Some Canadian indigenous languages have adopted the phonetic symbol "ʔ" itself as part of their orthographies. In some of them, it occurs as a pair of uppercase and lowercase characters, Ɂ and ɂ.[3]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz аи [ʔaj] 'no' See Abkhaz phonology
Arabic Standard[4] أغاني [ʔaˈɣaːniː] 'songs' See Arabic phonology, Hamza
Metropolitan dialects[5] شقة [ˈʃæʔʔæ] 'apartment' Metropolitan dialects including Egyptian Arabic. Corresponds to /q/ in Literary Arabic.
Bikol ba-go [ˈbaːʔɡo] 'new'
Burmese မြစ်များ [mjiʔ mjà] 'rivers'
Cebuano tubo [ˈtuboʔo] 'to grow'
Chamorro halu'u [həluʔu] 'shark'
Chechen кхоъ / qo' [qoʔ] 'three'
Chinese Wu 一级了/ iqciqlheq [ʔiɪʔ.tɕiɪʔ.ʔləʔ] 'superb'
Chintang [caʔwa] 'water'
Danish hånd [hɞnʔ] 'hand' See Danish phonology
Dutch[6] beamen [bəʔamə(n)] 'to confirm' See Dutch phonology
English Cockney[7] cat [kʰɛ̝ʔ] 'cat' Allophone of /t/. See glottalization and English phonology
GA [kʰæʔ(t)]
RP, North American[8] button [bʌʔn̩] 'button'
Finnish linja-auto [ˈlinjɑʔˌɑuto] 'bus' See Finnish phonology
French haut [ʔo] 'high' Some speakers. See French phonology
German northern dialects Beamter [bəˈʔamtɐ] 'civil servant' See German phonology
western dialects Verwaltung [ˌfɔʔˈvaltʊŋ] 'management'
Guaraní avañe [aʋaɲẽˈʔẽ] 'Guaraní' Occurs only between vowels
Hawaiian[9] ʻeleʻele [ˈʔɛlɛˈʔɛlɛ] 'black' See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrew מאמר [maʔamaʁ] 'article' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Javanese[10] anak [anaʔ] 'child' Allophone of /k/ in morpheme-final position
Indonesian bakso [ˌbaʔˈso] 'meatball' Allophone of /k/ or /ɡ/ in the syllable coda
Kabardian Iэ [ʔɛ] 'to tell'
Kagayanen[11] ? [saˈʔaɡ] 'floor'
Korean 일등/ildeung [ʔilt̤ɯŋ] 'the first place' See Korean phonology
Malay tidak [ˈtidaʔ] 'no' Allophone of final /k/ in the syllable coda, pronounced before consonants or at end of word
Maltese qattus [ˈʔattus] 'cat'
Nahuatl tahtli [taʔtɬi] 'father' Often left unwritten
Nenets Tundra Nenets выʼ [wɨʔ] 'tundra'
Nez Perce yáakaʔ [ˈjaːkaʔ] 'black bear'
Persian معني [maʔni] 'meaning' See Persian phonology
Pirahã baíxi [ˈmàí̯ʔì] 'parent'
Rotuman[12] ʻusu [ʔusu] 'to box'
Seri he [ʔɛ] 'I'
Tagalog iihi [ˌʔiːˈʔiːhɛʔ] 'will urinate' See Tagalog phonology
Tahitian puaʻa [puaʔa] 'pig'
Tongan tuʻu [tuʔu] 'stand'
Vietnamese[13] oi [ʔɔj] 'sultry' In free variation with no glottal stop. See Vietnamese phonology
Võro piniq [ˈpinʲiʔ] 'dogs' q is Võro plural marker (maa, kala 'land, fish'; maaq, kalaq 'lands, fishes')
Wallisian maʻuli [maʔuli] 'life'
Welayta [ʔirʈa] 'wet'

See also


  1. Kortlandt, Frederik (1993). General Linguistics & Indo-European Reconstruction. (PDF)
  2. Brown, Gillian. 1977:27. Listening to spoken English. London: Longman.
  3. Proposal to add LATIN SMALL LETTER GLOTTAL STOP to the UCS. URL accessed on 2011-10-26.
  4. Thelwall (1990:37)
  5. Watson (2002:17)
  6. Gussenhoven (1992:45)
  7. Sivertson (1960:111)
  8. Roach (2004:240)
  9. Ladefoged (2005:139)
  10. Clark, Yallop & Fletcher (2007:105)
  11. Olson et al. (2010:206–207)
  12. Blevins (1994:492)
  13. Thompson (1959:458–461)


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