Labial–coronal consonant

Tongue shape

A labial–coronal consonant is a consonant produced with two simultaneous articulators: With the lips ('labial'; a p, b, or m sound), and with the tongue (at the gums, an 'alveolar' t, d, or n sound, or further back, a 'post-alveolar' ch, j, or ny sound).

Several languages have been claimed to have such sounds, such as Margi and Bura in Nigeria. However, most researchers interpret them as having sequences of labial and coronal consonants, a rather common occurrence in Africa. The Yélî Dnye language of Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea, appears to be unique in having distinct labial–alveolar and labial–postalveolar places of articulation, as illustrated below. (The alveolars are fronted, and the post-alveolars only slightly retracted, so it may be best not to consider the latter to be retroflex as they are sometimes described.)

Stops in Yelî Dnye Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar
Stop paa side taa knife t̠oo tongue kaa spear
Prenasalized stop mbee carry nde food n̠d̠e firewood ŋɡaa tree
Nasal maa road nii juice n̠aa feast ŋa lease
Stops in Yelî Dnye Labial-alveolar Labial–postalveolar Labial–velar
Stop t͡pənə lung t̠͡pənə horn k͡pene coconut bag
Prenasalized stop n͡md͡boo pulp n̠͡md̠͡boo many ŋ͡mɡ͡bo fog
Nasal n͡mo bird n̠͡mo we ŋ͡mo breast

Labial–coronal allophones

In some Ghanaian languages such as Dagbani, and Nzema, there are palatalized allophones of labial–velars. These are sometimes mistakenly referred to as labial–alveolars, though they actually have a post-alveolar or palatal articulation instead of a true alveolar one.

Something similar is found with the labialized alveolar stops in several Northwest and Northeast Caucasian languages such as Abkhaz and Lak. Although the double stop articulation may be more common, they are generally considered to be essentially labialized alveolars because the labial contact is light, and moreover the contact is between the inner surfaces of the lips, which are protruded as they are for [w]. This is quite different from the normal contact for [p] in these languages. The labial contact may also be realized as a trill. Compare the following minimal sets in Ubykh:

danowdʷa ~ d͡ba ~ d͡ʙaawlbaif
tapregnanttʷa ~ t͡pa ~ t͡ʙacherrypato weave
tʼəramtʷʼə ~ t͡pʼə ~ t͡ʙʼəto take out

Except for clicks, nearly all other doubly articulated consonants in the world are labial–velars. The labial-alveolars reported from some Chadic languages have upon investigation turned out to be /tp/, /db/, /nm/ and /dɓ/ sequences, not single consonants. (See Margi language.)


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