Tongue shape

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 velarization, uvularization or pharyngealization, as in [ᵶ], the pharyngealized equivalent of [z], or
  2. The symbol ˁ or ˤ (a superscript voiced pharyngeal approximant (reversed glottal stop)) after the letter standing for the pharyngealized consonant, as in [tˁ] or [tˤ] (the pharyngealized equivalent of [t]).[1]

The swung dash diacritic (U+0334) was originally intended to combine with other letters to represent pharyngealization, but precomposed letters are required for proper display in most IPA fonts. These are only available for the labial consonants ᵱ ᵬ ᵮ ᵯ and the coronal consonants ᵵ ᵭ ᵴ ᵶ ᵰ ᵲ ᵳ ɫ.

The intended difference between the two Unicode values ˁ and ˤ is unclear. Graphically, the first more closely resembles a reversed ˀ (superscript glottal stop) and the second a superscript ʕ.


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 denti-alveolar while clear l tends to be retracted to an alveolar position.[3]

Arabic and Syriac use secondary uvularization, generally not distinguished from pharyngealization, for the "emphatic" coronal consonants.

Examples of pharyngealized consonants

(Uvularized consonants are not distinguished.)


See also


  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)


Further reading

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