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Places of articulation

Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be plosives, fricatives, nasal stops, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and the symbol for the voiced fricative is used instead. Uvular affricates can certainly be made but are rare: they occur in some southern High-German dialects, as well as in a few African and Native American languages. (Ejective uvular affricates occur in as realizations of uvular stops in Lillooet and Georgian.)

Uvular consonants in IPA

The uvular consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
File:Xsampa-Nslash.png uvular nasal Japanese 日本 Nihon [ni.hoTemplate:IPA bold dark red] Japan
File:Xsampa-q.png voiceless uvular plosive Kazakh Қазақ Qazaq [Template:IPA bold dark redɑzɑTemplate:IPA bold dark red] Kazakh
File:Xsampa-Gslash.png voiced uvular plosive Inuktitut utirama [ʔutiTemplate:IPA bold dark redama] because I return
File:Xsampa-x2.png voiceless uvular fricative Castilian Spanish enjuto [ẽ̞ɴˈTemplate:IPA bold dark redut̪o̞] dry
File:Xsampa-R2.png voiced uvular fricative Lakhota (LLC orthography) aǧúyapi [ˌʔaˈTemplate:IPA bold dark redʊjab̥ˑi] bread
File:Xsampa-Rslash.png uvular trill French (Standard Paris Dialect) Paris [paˈTemplate:IPA bold dark redi] Paris
File:IPA uvular ejective.png uvular ejective Quechua q'allu Template:IPA bold dark redaʎu] tomato sauce
File:Xsampa-Gslash lessthan.png voiced uvular implosive Mam [Template:IPA bold dark reda] fire

Descriptions in different languages

File:Places of articulation.svg

9. uvular

English has no uvular consonants, and they are unknown in the indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific. Uvular consonants are however found in many African and Middle-Eastern languages, most notably Arabic, and in Native American languages. In parts of the Caucasus mountains and northwestern North America, nearly every language has uvular stops and fricatives. Two uvular Rs are found in north-western Europe. It was once thought that they spread from northern French, but some linguists [attribution needed] believe that contact does not explain the appearance of all uvular Rs in Europe.

The voiceless uvular plosive is transcribed as [q] in both the IPA and SAMPA. It is pronounced somewhat like the voiceless velar plosive [k], but with the middle of the tongue further back on the velum, against or near the uvula. The most familiar use will doubtless be in the transliteration of Arabic place names such as Qatar and Iraq into English, though, since English lacks this sound, this is generally pronounced as [k], the most similar sound that occurs in English.

[ɢ], the voiced equivalent of [q], is much rarer. It is like the voiced velar plosive [ɡ], but articulated in the same uvular position as [q]. Few languages use this sound, but it is found in some varieties of Persian and in several Northeast Caucasian languages, notably Tabasaran. It may also occur as an allophone of another uvular consonant - in Kazakh, the voiced uvular plosive is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative after the velar nasal.

The voiceless uvular fricative [χ] is similar to the voiceless velar fricative [x], except that it is articulated near the uvula. It is found instead of [x] in some dialects of German, Spanish and Arabic.

Uvular flaps have been reported for Kube (Trans–New Guinea) and for the variety of Khmer spoken in Battambang.

The Tlingit language of the Alaskan Panhandle has ten uvular consonants:

Uvulars in Tlingit
tenuis plosive qákʷ tree spine
aspirated plosive ákʷ basket
ejective stop akʷ screech owl
labialized tenuis plosive náa octopus
labialized aspirated plosive qʷʰáan people, tribe
labialized ejective stop qʷʼátɬ cooking pot
voiceless fricative χaakʷ fingernail
ejective fricative χʼáakʷ freshwater sockeye salmon
labialized voiceless fricative χʷastáa canvas, denim
labialized ejective fricative χʷʼáaɬʼ down (feathers)

and the Ubykh language of Turkey has 20.

Uvular Rhotics

The uvular trill [ʀ] is used in certain dialects (especially those associated with European capitals) of French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, as well as Hebrew, for the rhotic phoneme. In many of these it has a uvular fricative (either voiced [ʁ] or voiceless [χ]) as an allophone when it follows one of the voiceless stops /p/, /t/, or /k/ at the end of a word, as in maître [mɛtχ], or even a uvular approximant.

As with most trills, uvular trills are often reduced to a single contact, especially between vowels.

Unlike other uvular consonants, the uvular trill is articulated without a retraction of the tongue, and therefore doesn't lower neighboring high vowels the way uvular stops commonly do.

Several other languages, including Inuktitut, Abkhaz, Uyghur and some varieties of Arabic, have a voiced uvular fricative but do not treat it as a rhotic consonant.

In Lakhota the uvular trill is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative before /i/.

See also


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