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Tongue shape

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 stops, fricatives, nasals, 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[edit]

The uvular consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Xsampa-Nslash.png uvular nasal Japanese 日本 Nihon [ni.hoɴ] Japan
Xsampa-q.png voiceless uvular stop Kazakh Қазақ Qazaq [qɑzɑq] Kazakh
Xsampa-Gslash.png voiced uvular stop Inuktitut utirama [ʔutiɢama] because I return
Xsampa-x2.png voiceless uvular fricative Castilian Spanish enjuto mojamuto [ẽ̞ɴˈχut̪o̞] skinny
Xsampa-R2.png voiced uvular fricative Lakhota (LLC orthography) aǧúyapi [ˌʔaˈʁʊjab̥ˑi] bread
Xsampa-Rslash.png uvular trill French (20th century Paris accent, e.g. by Édith Piaf) Paris [paˈʀi] Paris
IPA uvular ejective.png uvular ejective Quechua q'allu aʎu] tomato sauce
Xsampa-Gslash lessthan.png voiced uvular implosive Mam [ʛa] fire

Descriptions in different languages[edit]

9. uvular

English has no uvular consonants, and they are unknown in the indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific, though uvular consonants separate from velar consonants are believed to have existed in the Proto-Oceanic language. 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[who?] believe that contact does not explain the appearance of all uvular Rs in Europe.

The voiceless uvular stop is transcribed as [q] in both the IPA and SAMPA. It is pronounced somewhat like the voiceless velar stop [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 stop [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 stop 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 stop qákʷ tree spine
aspirated stop ákʷ basket
ejective stop akʷ screech owl
labialized tenuis stop náa octopus
labialized aspirated stop 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[edit]

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 sometimes in Modern 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 the French example 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[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uvular_consonant — Please support Wikipedia.
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