Uvular consonant

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Places of articulation
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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. Uvular consonants are less comman than velars. They 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.

The uvular consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Missing image

uvular nasal Japanese 日本 Nihon [[[Template:IPA bold dark red]]] Japan
Image:Xsampa-q.png voiceless uvular plosive Mishnaic Hebrew קוף q๔ph [[[Template:IPA bold dark red]]] The letter qoph
Image:Xsampa-Gslash.png voiced uvular plosive
Image:Xsampa-x2.png voiceless uvular fricative
Image:Xsampa-R2.png voiced uvular fricative Parisian French Paris [[[Template:IPA bold dark red]]] Paris
Image:Xsampa-Rslash.png uvular trill
Missing image
Image:IPA uvular ejective.png

uvular ejective
Missing image
Image:Xsampa-Gslash lessthan.png

voiced uvular implosive

There are no uvular consonants in English. Uvular consonants are 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. The Uvular R is also found in both French and German.

The voiceless uvular plosive is expressed as in most transliteration schemes, including the IPA and SAMPA, and is pronounced similarly to the voiceless velar plosive , but with the middle of one's tongue against the soft uvula rather than the velum. The most familiar use will doubtless be in the transliteration of Arabic place names to English (such as Qatar and Iraq), though, since English lacks this phoneme, most English speakers pronounce the sound as the nearest equivalent, .

, the voiced equivalent of , is much rarer. It sounds like the voiced velar plosive articulated in the same uvular position as . No widely-used language uses this sound, except some varieties of Persian.

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

tenuis plosive tree spine
aspirated plosive basket
ejective stop screech owl
labialized tenuis plosive octopus
labialized aspirated plosive people, tribe
labialized ejective stop cooking pot
voiceless fricative fingernail
ejective fricative freshwater sockeye salmon
labialized voiceless fricative canvas, denim
labialized ejective fricative down (feathers)

The Three Uvular Rs

The uvular trill is used in Parisian French and certain dialects of Arabic for the letter <r>.

The unvoiced uvular fricative is also exceedingly rare. It sounds similar to the voiceless velar fricative (spelled <j> in Peninsular Spanish, <ch> in German, Dutch or Scots, <х> in Russian, and <χ> in Greek), except that it is articulated on the uvula. Though not a phoneme in French, it is an allophone of in non-Parisian French when it follows one of the voiceless stops , , or , as in ma๎tre , where it is represented by <r>.

The voiced uvular fricative is much more common in northern Europe: it is found in many French dialects as the usual value of the letter R. Portuguese uses it as a trill. It also occurs in several Germanic languages to varying extents. Modern Israeli Hebrew also use the voiced uvular fricative as an r.

See Uvular R for more examples of uvular sounds represented by <r>.

Several other languages, including Inuktitut and some varieties of Arabic, have a voiced uvular fricative but do not treat it as an r.

See also

de:Uvular fr:Consonne uvulaire ja:口蓋垂音 ko:구개수음 sv:Uvular zh:小舌音


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