Uvular nasal

Uvular nasal
IPA number 120
Entity (decimal) ɴ
Unicode (hex) U+0274
Kirshenbaum n"
Braille ⠔ (braille pattern dots-35)⠝ (braille pattern dots-1345)
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The uvular nasal is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɴ, a small capital version of the Latin letter n; the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is N\.

The uvular nasal is a rare sound crosslingually, presumably due to the relative difficulty involved in articulating this sound.[1] The very small oral cavity used to produce uvular consonants makes it difficult to sustain voicing. It is also difficult to allow air to escape through the nose, as is required for a nasal consonant, while simultaneously blocking oral airflow at the uvular point of articulation.[1]

The uvular nasal most commonly occurs as a conditioned allophone of other sounds in specific environments.[1] For example, as an allophone of /n/ before a uvular plosive as in Quechua. However, it occurs as an independent phoneme in a small number of languages, notably Klallam and the Papuan language Mapos Buang.[2] In the latter, the uvular nasal contrasts phonemically with a velar nasal.[2] This appears to be the only language known to contain this contrast in its regular sound system. Mapos Buang has four phonemically distinct dorsal nasals in total, the other two being a palatal nasal and a labialized velar nasal.[2]

There is also the pre-uvular nasal[3] in some languages such as Yanyuwa, which is articulated slightly more front compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical uvular nasal, though not as front as the prototypical velar nasal. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ɴ̟ (advanced ɴ), ŋ̠ or ŋ˗ (both symbols denote a retracted ŋ). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are N\_+ and N_-, respectively.


Features of the uvular nasal:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans Many speakers aangenaam [ˈɑːɴχənɑːm] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ before /χ/; realized as [n] in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology
Armenian անխելք [ɑɴˈχɛlkʰ] 'brainless' Allophone of /n/ before a uvular consonant in informal speech.
Dutch Netherlandic aangenaam [ˈaːɴχəˌnaːm] 'pleasant' Allophone of /n/ and /ŋ/ in dialects that use [χ]. Can be realized as [n] and [ŋ] instead, especially in formal speech.
Georgian ზიყი [ziɴqʼi] 'hip joint' Allophone of /n/.
Inuit Inuvialuktun namunganmun [namuŋaɴmuɴ]'to where?' See Inuit phonology
Japanese[4] 日本/nihon [n̠ʲihõ̞ɴ] 'Japan' See Japanese phonology
Kalaallisut paarngorpoq [paaɴːoʁpoq] 'crawls'
Klallam sqəyáyŋəxʷ [sqəˈjajɴəxʷ] 'big tree' Contrasts with glottalized form.
Mapos Buang[2] alu [aˈl̪uɴ] 'widower' Phonemic, and contrasts with /ŋ/.
Quechua Peruvian sonqo [ˈs̠oɴqo] 'heart' Allophone of /n/.
Spanish[5] enjuto [ẽ̞ɴˈχuto̞] 'dry' Allophone of /n/. See Spanish phonology
Yanyuwa[6] [waŋ̠ulu] 'adolescent boy' Pre-uvular; contrasts with post-palatal [ŋ˖].[6]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Bobaljik, Jonathan David (October 1996). "Assimilation in the Inuit Languages and the Place of the Uvular Nasal". International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 62, No. 4, pp. 323-350. The University of Chicago Press. JSTOR 1265705.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Hooley; Rambok, Bruce; Mose Lung (2010). Ḳapiya Tateḳin Buang Vuheng-atov Ayej = Central Buang–English Dictionary. Summer Institute of Linguistics, Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 9980035897.
  3. Instead of "pre-uvular", it can be called "advanced uvular", "fronted uvular", "post-velar", "retracted velar" or "backed velar". For simplicity, this article uses only the term "pre-uvular".
  4. Okada (1991), p. 95.
  5. Martínez Celdrán, Fernández Planas & Carrera Sabaté (2003), p. 258.
  6. 1 2 Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 34-35.


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