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Pharyngealization is a secondary articulation of consonants or vowels by which the pharynx or epiglottis is constricted during the articulation of the sound.

IPA symbols

In the International Phonetic Alphabet, pharyngealization can be indicated by one of two methods:

  1. A tilde or swung dash through the letter indicates either velarization or pharyngealization, as in [ɫ] ("dark l", the pharyngealized equivalent of [l]), or
  2. The symbol ⟨ˤ⟩ (a superscript voiced pharyngeal fricative or reversed glottal stop) after the letter standing for the pharyngealized consonant, as in [tˤ] (the pharyngealized equivalent of [t]).[1]


Arabic and Syriac use phonemic secondary pharyngealization for the "emphatic" coronal consonants. Ubykh, a Northwest Caucasian language formerly spoken in Russia and Turkey, uses pharyngealization in 14 pharyngealized consonants. Chilcotin has pharyngealized consonants that trigger pharyngealization of vowels. Many languages (e.g. Salishan, Sahaptian) in the Plateau culture area of North America also have pharyngealization processes triggered by pharyngeal or pharyngealized consonants that affect vowels.

The Khoisan language Taa (or !Xóõ) has pharyngealized vowels that contrast phonemically with voiced, breathy, and epiglottalized vowels.[2] This feature of !Xóõ is represented in its orthography by a tilde beneath the respective pharyngealized vowel. In Danish many of the vowel phonemes have distinct pharyngealized qualities, and in the Tuu languages epiglottalized vowels are phonemic.

For many languages, pharyngealization is generally associated with more dental articulations of coronal consonants so that dark l tends to be dental or dentoalveolar while clear l tends to be retracted to an alveolar position.[3]


  1. It is easily confused in print with ⟨ˁ⟩, as they look almost identical, and both are coded as superscript variants of ⟨ʕ⟩.
  2. Ladefoged (2005:183)
  3. Recasens & Espinosa (2005:4)


  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005). Vowels and Consonants, Second, Blackwell.
  • Recasens, Daniel (2005). Articulatory, positional and coarticulatory characteristics for clear /l/ and dark /l/: evidence from two Catalan dialects. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 1–25.

Further reading

See also

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