Approximant consonant

Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough[1] nor with enough articulatory precision[2] to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no turbulence.[3] This class of sounds includes lateral approximants like [l] (as in less), non-lateral approximants like [ɹ] (as in rest), and semivowels like [j] and [w] (as in yes and west, respectively).[3]

Before Peter Ladefoged coined the term "approximant" in the 1960s,[4] the term "frictionless continuant" referred to non-lateral approximants.


Some approximants resemble vowels in acoustic and articulatory properties and the terms semivowel and glide are often used for these non-syllabic vowel-like segments. The correlation between semivowels and vowels is strong enough that cross-language differences between semivowels correspond with the differences between their related vowels.[5]

Vowels and their corresponding semivowels alternate in many languages depending on the phonological environment, or for grammatical reasons, as is the case with Indo-European ablaut. Similarly, languages often avoid configurations where a semivowel precedes its corresponding vowel.[6] A number of phoneticians distinguish between semivowels and approximants by their location in a syllable. Although he uses the terms interchangeably, Montreuil (2004:104) remarks that, for example, the final glides of English par and buy differ from French par ('through') and baille ('tub') in that, in the latter pair, the approximants appear in the syllable coda, whereas, in the former, they appear in the syllable nucleus. This means that opaque (if not minimal) contrasts can occur in languages like Italian (with the i-like sound of piede 'foot', appearing in the nucleus: [ˈpi̯eˑde], and that of piano 'slow', appearing in the syllable onset: [ˈpjaˑno])[7] and Spanish (with a near minimal pair being abyecto [aβˈjekto] 'abject' and abierto [aˈβi̯erto] 'opened').[8]

Approximant-vowel correspondences[9][10]
Vowel Corresponding
Place of
i j** Palatal Spanish amplío ('I extend') vs. ampl ('he extended')
y ɥ Labiopalatal French aigu ('sharp') vs. aiguille ('needle')
ɨ Palato-velar Korean
ɯ ɰ** Velar
u w Labiovelar Spanish continúo ('I continue') vs. continuó ('he continued')
ɑ ʕ̞ Pharyngeal
ɚ, ɝ ɹ, ɻ Postalveolar, retroflex* English waiter vs. waitress
^* Because of the articulatory complexities of the American English rhotic, there is some variation in its phonetic description. A transcription with the IPA character for an alveolar approximant ([ɹ]) is common, though the sound is more postalveolar. Actual retroflexion may occur as well and both occur as variations of the same sound.[11] However, Catford (1988:161f) makes a distinction between the vowels of American English (which he calls "rhotacized") and vowels with "retroflexion" such as those that appear in Badaga; Trask (1996:310), on the other hand, labels both as r-colored and notes that both have a lowered third formant.[12]
^** Because the vowels [i ɯ] are articulated with spread lips, spreading is implied for their approximant analogues, [j ɰ]. However, these sounds generally have little or no lip-spreading. The fricative letters with a lowering diacritic, ⟨ʝ˕ ɣ˕⟩, may therefore be justified for a neutral articulation between spread [j ɰ] and rounded [ɥ w].[13]

In articulation and often diachronically, palatal approximants correspond to front vowels, velar approximants to back vowels, and labialized approximants to rounded vowels. In American English, the rhotic approximant corresponds to the rhotic vowel. This can create alternations (as shown in the above table).

In addition to alternations, glides can be inserted to the left or the right of their corresponding vowels when they occur next to a hiatus.[14] For example, in Ukrainian, medial /i/ triggers the formation of an inserted [j] that acts as a syllable onset so that when the affix /-ist/ is added to футбол ('football') to make футболіст 'football player', it is pronounced [futbo̞ˈlist], but маоїст ('Maoist'), with the same affix, is pronounced [mao̞ˈjist] with a glide.[15] Dutch for many speakers has a similar process that extends to mid vowels:[16]

  • bioscoop[bijɔskoːp] ('cinema')
  • zee + en[zeːjə(n)] ('seas')
  • fluor[flyɥɔr] ('fluor')
  • reu + en[røɥə(n)] ('male dogs')
  • Rwanda[ruʋandɐ] ('Rwanda')[17]
  • Boaz[boʋas] ('Boaz')[17]

Similarly, vowels can be inserted next to their corresponding glide in certain phonetic environments. Sievers' law describes this behaviour for Germanic.

Non-high semivowels also occur. In colloquial Nepali speech, a process of glide-formation occurs, where one of two adjacent vowels becomes non-syllabic; the process includes mid vowels so that [dʱo̯a] ('cause to wish') features a non-syllabic mid vowel.[18] Spanish features a similar process and even nonsyllabic /a/ can occur so that ahorita ('right away') is pronounced [a̯o̞ˈɾita].[19] It is not often clear, however, whether such sequences involve a semivowel (a consonant) or a diphthong (a vowel), and in many cases, it may not be a meaningful distinction.

Although many languages have central vowels [ɨ, ʉ], which lie between back/velar [ɯ, u] and front/palatal [i, y], there are few cases of a corresponding approximant [ ȷ̈]. One is in the Korean diphthong [ ȷ̈i] or [ɨ̯i][20] though it is more frequently analyzed as velar (as in the table above), and Mapudungun may be another, with three high vowel sounds, /i/, /u/, /ɨ/ and three corresponding consonants, /j/, and /w/, and a third one is often described as a voiced unrounded velar fricative; some texts note a correspondence between this approximant and /ɨ/ that is parallel to /j//i/ and /w//u/. An example is liq /ˈliɣ/ ([ˈliɨ̯]?) ('white').[21]

Approximants versus fricatives

In addition to less turbulence, approximants also differ from fricatives in the precision required to produce them.[22] When emphasized, approximants may be slightly fricated (that is, the airstream may become slightly turbulent), which is reminiscent of fricatives. For example, the Spanish word ayuda ('help') features a palatal approximant that is pronounced as a fricative in emphatic speech.[23] Spanish can be analyzed as having a meaningful distinction between fricative, approximant, and intermediate /ʝ ʝ˕ j/.[24] However, such frication is generally slight and intermittent, unlike the strong turbulence of fricative consonants.

Because voicelessness has comparatively reduced resistance to air flow from the lungs, the increased air flow creates more turbulence, making acoustic distinctions between voiceless approximants (which are extremely rare cross-linguistically[25]) and voiceless fricatives difficult.[26] This is why, for example, no language is known to contrast the voiceless labialized velar approximant [w̥] (also transcribed with the special letter ⟨ʍ⟩) with a voiceless labialized velar fricative [xʷ].[27] Similarly, Standard Tibetan has a voiceless lateral approximant, [l̥], and Welsh has a voiceless lateral fricative [ɬ], but the distinction is not always clear from descriptions of these languages. Again, no language is known to contrast the two.[27] Iaai is reported to have an unusually large number of voiceless approximants, with /l̥ ɥ̊ w̥/.

For places of articulation further back in the mouth, languages do not contrast voiced fricatives and approximants. Therefore, the IPA allows the symbols for the voiced fricatives to double for the approximants, with or without a lowering diacritic.

Occasionally, the glottal "fricatives" are called approximants, since [h] typically has no more frication than voiceless approximants, but they are often phonations of the glottis without any accompanying manner or place of articulation.

Central approximants

Lateral approximants

In lateral approximants, the center of tongue makes solid contact with the roof of the mouth. However, the defining location is the side of the tongue, which only approaches the teeth.

Coarticulated approximants with dedicated IPA symbols

Voiceless approximants

Voiceless approximants are rarely distinguished from voiceless fricatives. Iaai has an unusually large number of them, with /l̥ ɥ̊ w̥/ contrasting with /l ɥ w/ (as well as a large number of voiceless nasals). Attested voiceless approximants are:[28]

Nasal approximants

(Not to be confused with 'nasal continuant', which is a synonym for nasal consonant)

Examples are:

In Portuguese, the nasal glides [j̃] and [w̃] historically became /ɲ/ and /m/ in some words. In Edo, the nasalized allophones of the approximants /j/ and /w/ are nasal occlusives, [ɲ] and [ŋʷ].

What are transcribed as nasal approximants may include non-syllabic elements of nasal vowels or diphthongs.

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged (1975:277)
  2. ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:201), citing Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996)
  3. ^ a b Martínez-Celdrán (2004:201)
  4. ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:201), pointing to Ladefoged (1964:25)
  5. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:323), citing Maddieson & Emmorey (1985)
  6. ^ Rubach (2002:680), citing Kawasaki (1982)
  7. ^ Montreuil (2004:104)
  8. ^ Saporta (1956:288)
  9. ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:202)
  10. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:323)
  11. ^ Hallé, Best & Levitt (1999:283) citing Delattre & Freeman (1968), Zawadzki & Kuehn (1980), and Boyce & Espy-Wilson (1997)
  12. ^ Both cited in Hamann (2003:25–26)
  13. ^ John Esling (2010) "Phonetic Notation", in Hardcastle, Laver & Gibbon (eds) The Handbook of Phonetic Sciences, 2nd ed., p 699.
  14. ^ Rubach (2002:672)
  15. ^ Rubach (2002:675–676)
  16. ^ Rubach (2002:677–678)
  17. ^ a b There is dialectal and allophonic variation in the realization of /ʋ/. For speakers who realize it as [ʋ], Rubach (2002:683) postulates an additional rule that changes any occurrence of [w] from glide insertion into [ʋ].
  18. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:323–324)
  19. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:256–257)
  20. ^ Ahn & Iverson (2006)
  21. ^ Listen to a recording Archived February 26, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Boersma (1997:12)
  23. ^ Martínez-Celdrán (2004:204)
  24. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, E. (2004) Problems in the classification of approximants. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34, 201–10.
  25. ^ Blevins (2006:13)
  26. ^ Ohala (1995:8)
  27. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:326)
  28. ^ Bickford & Floyd (2006), augmented by sources at individual articles for the glottal approximants


  • Blevins, Juliette (2006), "New perspectives on English sound patterns: "natural" and "unnatural" in evolutionary phonology", Journal of English Linguistics, 34: 6–25, doi:10.1177/0075424206287585
  • Boersma, Paul (1997), "Sound change in functional phonology", Functional Phonology: Formalizing the Interactions Between Articulatory and Perceptual Drives, The Hague: Holland Academic Graphics
  • Boyce, S.; Espy-Wilson, C. (1997), "Coarticulatory stability in American English /r/", Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 101 (6): 3741–3753, Bibcode:1997ASAJ..101.3741B, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1121/1.418333, PMID 9193061
  • Delattre, P.; Freeman, D.C. (1968), "A dialect study of American R's by x-ray motion picture", Linguistics, 44: 29–68
  • Hallé, Pierre A.; Best, Catherine T.; Levitt, Andrea; Andrea (1999), "Phonetic vs. phonological influences on French listeners' perception of American English approximants", Journal of Phonetics, 27 (3): 281–306, doi:10.1006/jpho.1999.0097
  • Hamann, Silke (2003), The Phonetics and Phonology of Retroflexes, Utrecht, ISBN 90-76864-39-X
  • Kawasaki, Haruko (1982), An acoustical basis for universal constraints on sound sequences (doctoral dissertation), University of California, Berkeley
  • Ladefoged, Peter (1964), A Phonetic Study of West African Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Ladefoged, Peter (1975), A Course in Phonetics, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
  • Maddieson, Ian; Emmorey, Karen (1985), "Relationship between semivowels and vowels: Cross-linguistic investigations of acoustic difference and", Phonetica, 42 (4): 163–174, doi:10.1159/000261748, PMID 3842771
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio (2004), "Problems in the classification of approximants", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (2): 201–210, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001732
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
  • Montreuil, Jean-Pierre (2004), "From velar codas to high nuclei: phonetic and structural change in OT", Probus, 16: 91–111, doi:10.1515/prbs.2004.005
  • Rubach, Jerzy (2002), "Against subsegmental glides", Linguistic Inquiry, 33 (4): 672–687, doi:10.1162/ling.2002.33.4.672
  • Ohala, John (1995), "Phonetic explanations for sound patterns: Implications for grammars of competence", Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 2, Stockholm, pp. 52–59
  • Saporta, Sol (1956), "A Note on Spanish Semivowels", Language, 32 (2): 287–290, doi:10.2307/411006, JSTOR 411006
  • Trask, Robert L. (1996), A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology, London: Routledge
  • Zawadski, P.A.; Kuehn, D.P. (1980), "A cineradiographic study of static and dynamic aspects of American English /r/", Phonetica, 37 (4): 253–266, doi:10.1159/000259995, PMID 7443796
Co-articulated consonant

Co-articulated consonants or complex consonants are consonants produced with two simultaneous places of articulation. They may be divided into two classes: doubly articulated consonants with two primary places of articulation of the same manner (both stop, or both nasal, etc.), and consonants with secondary articulation, that is, a second articulation not of the same manner.

Consonant mutation

Consonant mutation is change in a consonant in a word according to its morphological or syntactic environment.

Mutation occurs in languages around the world. A prototypical example of consonant mutation is the initial consonant mutation of all modern Celtic languages. Initial consonant mutation is also found in Indonesian or Malay, in Southern Paiute and in several West African languages such as Fula. The Nilotic language Dholuo, spoken in Kenya, shows mutation of stem-final consonants, as does English to a small extent. Mutation of initial, medial and final consonants is found in Modern Hebrew. Also, Japanese exhibits word medial consonant mutation involving voicing, rendaku, in many compounds.

Labial approximant

Labial approximant is the name of a class of consonants.

Labialized palatal approximant

The labialized palatal approximant, also called the labial–palatal or labio-palatal approximant, is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It has two constrictions in the vocal tract: with the tongue on the palate, and rounded at the lips. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɥ⟩, a rotated lowercase letter ⟨h⟩, or occasionally ⟨jʷ⟩, since it is a labialized [j].

The labialized palatal approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close front rounded vowel [y]. The two are almost identical featurally. They alternate with each other in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, ⟨ɥ⟩ and ⟨y̑⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound. Sometimes, ⟨y̆⟩ is written in place of ⟨y̑⟩, even though the former symbol denotes an extra-short [y] in the official IPA.

Some languages, though, have a palatal approximant that is unspecified for rounding, and therefore cannot be considered the semivocalic equivalent of either [y] or its unrounded counterpart [i]. An example of such language is Spanish, in which the labialized palatal approximant consonant (not semivowel, which does not exist in Spanish) appears allophonically with rounded vowels in words such as ayuda [aˈʝ̞ʷuð̞a] 'help'. It is not correct to transcribe it with the symbols ⟨ɥ⟩ or ⟨jʷ⟩; the only suitable transcription is ⟨ʝ̞ʷ⟩. See palatal approximant for more information.

There is also the labialized post-palatal approximant in some languages, which is articulated slightly more back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical labialized palatal approximant, though not as back as the prototypical labialized velar approximant. It can be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close central rounded vowel [ʉ]. The two are almost identical featurally. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ⟨ɥ̄⟩ or ⟨ɥ˗⟩ (both symbols denote a retracted ⟨ɥ⟩), ⟨ɥ̈⟩ (centralized ⟨ɥ⟩), ⟨w̟⟩ (advanced ⟨w⟩) or ⟨ẅ⟩ (centralized ⟨w⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are H_o, H_", w_+ and w_", respectively. Other possible transcriptions include a centralized and labialized ⟨j⟩ (⟨j̈ʷ⟩ in the IPA, j_"_w in X-SAMPA) and a non-syllabic ⟨ʉ⟩ (⟨ʉ̯⟩ in the IPA, }_^ in X-SAMPA).

Especially in broad transcription, the labialized post-palatal approximant may be transcribed as a palatalized labialized velar approximant (⟨wʲ⟩ in the IPA, w' or w_j in X-SAMPA).

Lateral consonant

A lateral is consonant in which the airstream proceeds along the sides of the tongue, but it is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth. An example of a lateral consonant is the English l, as in Larry.

For the most common laterals, the tip of the tongue makes contact with the upper teeth (see dental consonant) or the upper gum (see alveolar consonant), but there are many other possible places for laterals to be made. The most common laterals are approximants and belong to the class of liquids, but lateral fricatives and affricates are also common in some parts of the world. Some languages, such as the Iwaidja and Ilgar languages of Australia, have lateral flaps, and others, such as the Xhosa and Zulu languages of Africa, have lateral clicks.

When pronouncing the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], the lip blocks the airflow in the centre of the vocal tract, so the airstream proceeds along the sides instead. Nevertheless, they are not considered lateral consonants because the airflow never goes over the tongue. No known language makes a distinction between lateral and non-lateral labiodentals. Plosives are never lateral, but they may have lateral release. Nasals are never lateral either, but some languages have lateral nasal clicks. For consonants articulated in the throat (laryngeals), the lateral distinction is not made by any language, although pharyngeal and epiglottal laterals are reportedly possible.

List of Latin-script digraphs

This is a list of digraphs used in various Latin alphabets. Capitalization involves only the first letter (ch becomes Ch) unless otherwise stated (ij becomes IJ).

Letters with diacritics are arranged in alphabetic order according to their base: ⟨å⟩ is alphabetized with ⟨a⟩, not at the end of the alphabet, as it would be in Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. Substantially-modified letters, such as ⟨ſ ⟩ (a variant of ⟨s⟩) and ⟨ɔ⟩ (based on ⟨o⟩), are placed at the end.

Marshallese language

The Marshallese language (Marshallese: new orthography Kajin M̧ajeļ or old orthography Kajin Majōl [kɑ͡æzʲinʲ(e͡ɤ) mˠɑɑ̯zʲɛ͡ʌɫ]), also known as Ebon, is a Micronesian language spoken in the Marshall Islands. The language is spoken by about 44,000 people in the Marshall Islands, making it the principal language of the country. There are also roughly 6,000 speakers outside of the Marshall Islands, including those in Nauru and the U.S.

There are two major dialects: Rālik (western) and Ratak (eastern).

Ottawa phonology

Ottawa (also spelled Odawa) is a dialect of the Ojibwe language spoken in a series of communities in southern Ontario and a smaller number of communities in northern Michigan. Ottawa has a phonological inventory of seventeen consonants and seven oral vowels; in addition, there are long nasal vowels the phonological status of which are discussed below. An overview of general Ojibwa phonology and phonetics can be found in the article on Ojibwe phonology. The Ottawa writing system described in Modern orthography is used to write Ottawa words, with transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) used as needed.

Significant innovations in Ottawa phonology differentiate it from other dialects of Ojibwe. It is characterized by a pervasive pattern of vowel syncope, by which short vowels are completely deleted or in certain circumstances reduced to schwa [ə], when they appear in metrically defined Weak syllables. The notable effects of Syncope are:

Syncope increases the distinctiveness of Ottawa relative to other dialects of Ojibwe, as syncope makes the pronunciation and representation of many Ottawa words significantly different from those of other dialects of Ojibwe.

By deleting short vowels between consonants, syncope also creates new consonant clusters that do not occur in other dialects of Ojibwe.

In some cases, syncope results in further adjustments in the pronunciation of consonant sequences

Syncope has also resulted in new forms of the person prefixes that occur on nouns and verbs.

Syncope has increased the amount of variability in the pronunciation of words that contains vowels subject to syncope, as speakers frequently have more than one way of pronouncing person prefixes and words.

Palatal approximant

The voiced palatal approximant is a type of consonant used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨j⟩. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is j, and in the Americanist phonetic notation it is ⟨y⟩. Because the English name of the letter J, jay, does not start with [j] but with [d͡ʒ] (voiced palato-alveolar affricate), this approximant is sometimes called yod instead, as in the phonological history terms yod-dropping and yod-coalescence.

The palatal approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close front unrounded vowel [i]. The two are almost identical featurally. They alternate with each other in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, ⟨j⟩ and ⟨i̯⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

Some languages, though, have a palatal approximant that is unspecified for rounding, and therefore cannot be considered the semivocalic equivalent of either [i] or its rounded counterpart [y] (which would normally correspond to [ɥ]). An example of such language is Spanish, which distinguishes two palatal approximants: an approximant semivowel [j], which is always unrounded, and an unspecified for rounding approximant consonant [ʝ̞]. Eugenio Martínez Celdrán describes the difference between them as follows:

[j] is shorter and is usually a merely transitory sound. It can only exist together with a full vowel and does not appear in syllable onset. [On the other hand,] [ʝ̞] has a lower amplitude, mainly in F2. It can only appear in syllable onset. It is not noisy either articulatorily or perceptually. [ʝ̞] can vary towards [ʝ] in emphatic pronunciations, having noise (turbulent airstream). (...)

There is a further argument through which we can establish a clear difference between [j] and [ʝ̞]: the first sound cannot be rounded, not even through co-articulation, whereas the second one is rounded before back vowels or the back semi-vowel. Thus, in words like viuda [ˈbjuð̞a] 'widow', Dios [ˈdjos] 'God', vio [ˈbjo] 's/he saw', etc., the semi-vowel [j] is unrounded; if it were rounded a sound that does not exist in Spanish, [ɥ], would appear. On the other hand, [ʝ̞] is unspecified as far as rounding is concerned and it is assimilated to the labial vowel context: rounded with rounded vowels, e.g. ayuda [aˈʝ̞ʷuð̞a] 'help', coyote [koˈʝ̞ʷote] 'coyote', hoyuelo [oˈʝ̞ʷwelo] 'dimple', etc., and unrounded with unrounded vowels: payaso [paˈʝ̞aso] 'clown', ayer [aˈʝ̞eɾ] 'yesterday'.

He also says that in his opinion, "the IPA shows a lack of precision in the treatment it gives to approximants, if we take into account our understanding of the phonetics of Spanish. [ʝ̞] and [j] are two different segments, but they have to be labelled as voiced palatal approximant consonants. I think that the former is a real consonant, whereas the latter is a semi-consonant, as it has traditionally been called in Spanish, or a semi-vowel, if preferred. The IPA, though, classifies it as a consonant."There is a parallel problem with transcribing the voiced velar approximant.

The symbol ⟨ʝ̞⟩ may also be used when the palatal approximant is merely an allophone of the voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/ as, compared with ⟨j⟩, it is somewhat more similar to the symbol ⟨ʝ⟩. The X-SAMPA equivalent of ⟨ʝ̞⟩ is j\_o.

Note that the symbol ⟨ʝ̞⟩ may not display properly in all browsers. If that is the case, ⟨ʝ˕⟩ should be substituted.

In the writing systems used for most of the languages of Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe, the letter j denotes the palatal approximant, as in German Jahr 'year'. That is followed by IPA although it may be counterintuitive for English speakers (words occur with this sound in a few loanwords in English like Hebrew "hallelujah" and German "Jägermeister").

In grammars of Ancient Greek, the palatal approximant, which was lost early in the history of Greek, is sometimes written as ⟨ι̯⟩ (iota with the inverted breve below, the nonsyllabic diacritic or marker of a semivowel).There is also the post-palatal approximant in some languages, which is articulated slightly more back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical palatal approximant, though not as back as the prototypical velar approximant. It can be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close central unrounded vowel [ɨ], and the two are almost identical featurally. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ⟨j̠⟩, ⟨j˗⟩ (both symbols denote a retracted ⟨j⟩), ⟨ɰ̟⟩ or ⟨ɰ˖⟩ (both symbols denote an advanced ⟨ɰ⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are j_- and M\_+, respectively. Other possible transcriptions include a centralized ⟨j⟩ (⟨j̈⟩ in the IPA, j_" in X-SAMPA), a centralized ⟨ɰ⟩ (⟨ɰ̈⟩ in the IPA, M\_" in X-SAMPA) and a non-syllabic ⟨ɨ⟩ (⟨ɨ̯⟩ in the IPA, 1_^ in X-SAMPA).

For the reasons mentioned above and in the article velar approximant, none of these symbols are appropriate for languages such as Spanish, in which the post-palatal approximant consonant (not a semivowel) appears as an allophone of /ɡ/ before front vowels, and is best transcribed ⟨ʝ̞˗⟩, ⟨ʝ˕˗⟩ (both symbols denote a lowered and retracted ⟨ʝ⟩), ⟨ɣ̞˖⟩ or ⟨ɣ˕˖⟩ (both symbols denote a lowered and advanced ⟨ɣ⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are j\_o_- and G_o_+.

Especially in broad transcription, the post-palatal approximant may be transcribed as a palatalized velar approximant (⟨ɰʲ⟩, ⟨ɣ̞ʲ⟩ or ⟨ɣ˕ʲ⟩ in the IPA, M\', M\_j, G'_o or G_o_j in X-SAMPA).

Russian phonology

This article discusses the phonological system of standard Russian based on the Moscow dialect (unless otherwise noted). For an overview of dialects in the Russian language, see Russian dialects. Most descriptions of Russian describe it as having five vowel phonemes, though there is some dispute over whether a sixth vowel, /ɨ/, is separate from /i/. Russian has 34 consonants, which can be divided into two sets:

hard (твёрдый [ˈtvʲɵrdɨj] ) or plain

soft (мягкий [ˈmʲæxʲkʲɪj]) or palatalizedRussian also distinguishes hard consonants from soft (palatalized) consonants and from a soft consonant followed by /j/ or a hard consonant followed by /j/ (though the last is uncommon: /C Cʲ Cʲj Cj/), and preserves palatalized consonants that are followed by another consonant more often than other Slavic languages do. Like Polish, it has both hard postalveolars (/ʂ ʐ/) and soft ones (/t͡ɕ ɕː ʑː/).

Russian has vowel reduction in unstressed syllables. This feature applies in Slavic languages like Belarusian, Ukrainian and Bulgarian, and is also found in English, but not in western Slavic languages, such as Polish and Czech.

Spanish and Portuguese Jews

Spanish and Portuguese Jews, also called Western Sephardim, are a distinctive sub-group of Iberian Jews who are largely descended from Jews who lived as New Christians in the Iberian Peninsula during the immediate generations following the forced expulsion of unconverted Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497.

Although the 1492 and 1497 expulsions of unconverted Jews from Spain and Portugal were separate events from the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions (which was established over a decade earlier in 1478), they were ultimately linked, as the Inquisition eventually also led to the fleeing out of Iberia of many descendants of Jewish converts to Catholicism in subsequent generations.

Despite the fact that the original Edicts of Expulsion did not apply to Jewish-origin New Christian conversos —as these were now legally Christians— the discriminatory practices that the Inquisition nevertheless placed upon them, which were often lethal, put immense pressure on many of the Jewish-origin Christians to also emigrate out of Spain and Portugal in the immediate generations following the expulsion of their unconverted Jewish brethren.

The Alhambra Decree (also known as the Edict of Expulsion) was an edict issued on 31 March 1492, by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) ordering the expulsion of all unconverted practicing Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, including from all its territories and possessions, by 31 July of that year. The primary purpose of the expulsion was to eliminate the influence of unconverted Jews on Spain's by then large Jewish-origin New Christian converso population, to ensure that the prior did not encourage the latter to relapse and revert to Judaism.

Over half of Spain's Jewish origin population had converted to Catholicism as a result of the religious anti-Jewish persecution and pogroms which occurred in 1391. As a result of the Alhambra decree and persecution in prior years, it is estimated that of Spain's total Jewish origin population at the time, over 200,000 Jews converted to Catholicism, and initially remained in Spain. Between 40,000 and 80,000 did not convert to Catholicism, and by their steadfast commitment to remain Jewish were thus expelled. Of those who were expelled as unconverted Jews, an indeterminate number nonetheless converted to Catholicism once outside Spain and eventually returned to Spain in the years following the expulsion due to the hardships many experienced in their resettlement. Many of Spain's Jews who left Spain as Jews also initially moved to Portugal, where they were subsequently forcibly converted to the Catholic Church in 1497.

Most of the Jews who left Spain as Jews accepted the hospitality of Sultan Bayezid II and, after the Alhambra Decree, moved to the Ottoman Empire, where they founded communities openly practising the Jewish religion; they and their descendants are known as Eastern Sephardim.

During the centuries following the Spanish and Portuguese decrees, some of the Jewish-origin New Christian conversos started emigrating from Portugal and Spain, settling until the 1700s throughout areas of Western Europe and non-Iberian realms of the colonial Americas (mostly Dutch realms, including Curaçao in the Dutch West Indies, Recife in Dutch areas of colonial Brazil which eventually also fell to the Portuguese, and New Amsterdam which later became New York) forming communities and formally reverting to Judaism. It is the collective of these communities and their descendants who are known as Western Sephardim, and are the subject of this article.

As the early members of the Western Sephardim consisted of persons who themselves (or whose immediate forebears) personally experienced an interim period as New Christians, which resulted in unceasing trials and persecutions of crypto-Judaism by the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisitions, the early community continued to be augmented by further New Christian emigration pouring out of the Iberian Peninsula in a continuous flow between the 1600s to 1700s. Jewish-origin New Christians were officially considered Christians due to their forced or coerced conversions; as such they were subject to the jurisdiction of the Catholic Church's Inquisitorial system, and were subject to harsh heresy and apostasy laws if they continued to practice their ancestral Jewish faith. Those New Christians who eventually fled both the Iberian cultural sphere and jurisdiction of the Inquisition were able to officially return to Judaism and open Jewish practice once they were in their new tolerant environments of refuge.

As former conversos or their descendants, Western Sephardim developed a distinctive ritual based on the remnants of the Judaism of pre-expulsion Spain, which some had practiced in secrecy during their time as New Christians, and influenced by Judaism as practiced by the communities (including Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire and Ashkenazi Jews) which assisted them in their readoption of normative Judaism; as well as by the Spanish-Moroccan and the Italian Jewish rites practiced by rabbis and hazzanim recruited from those communities to instruct them in ritual practice. A part of their distinctiveness as a Jewish group, furthermore, stems from the fact that they saw themselves as forced to "redefine their Jewish identity and mark its boundaries [...] with the intellectual tools they had acquired in their Christian socialization" during their time as New Christian conversos.

Voiced glottal fricative

The breathy-voiced glottal transition, commonly called a voiced glottal fricative, is a type of sound used in some spoken languages which patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɦ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h\.

In many languages, [ɦ] has no place or manner of articulation. Thus, it has been described as a breathy-voiced counterpart of the following vowel from a phonetic point of view. However, its characteristics are also influenced by the preceding vowels and whatever other sounds surround it. Therefore, it can be described as a segment whose only consistent feature is its breathy voice phonation in such languages. It may have real glottal constriction in a number of languages (such as Finnish), making it a fricative.

Lamé contrasts voiceless and voiced glottal fricatives.

Voiced velar approximant

The voiced velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɰ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is M\.

The consonant is not present in English, but approximates to the sound of a 'g' with the throat kept open. The voiced velar approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic counterpart of the close back unrounded vowel [ɯ]. The two are almost identical featurally. ⟨ɰ⟩ and ⟨ɯ̯⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

In some languages, such as Spanish, the voiced velar approximant appears as an allophone of /ɡ/ – see below.

Some languages have the voiced pre-velar approximant, which is articulated slightly more front compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical voiced velar approximant, though not as front as the prototypical palatal approximant.

The symbol for the velar approximant originates from ⟨ɯ⟩, but with a vertical line. Compare ⟨u⟩ and ⟨ɥ⟩ for the labio-palatal approximant.

Voiceless glottal fricative

The voiceless glottal fricative, sometimes called voiceless glottal transition, and sometimes called the aspirate, is a type of sound used in some spoken languages that patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨h⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h, although [h] has been described as a voiceless vowel because in many languages, it lacks the place and manner of articulation of a prototypical consonant as well as the height and backness of a prototypical vowel:

[h and ɦ] have been described as voiceless or breathy voiced counterparts of the vowels that follow them [but] the shape of the vocal tract […] is often simply that of the surrounding sounds. […] Accordingly, in such cases it is more appropriate to regard h and ɦ as segments that have only a laryngeal specification, and are unmarked for all other features. There are other languages [such as Hebrew and Arabic] which show a more definite displacement of the formant frequencies for h, suggesting it has a [glottal] constriction associated with its production.

Lamé contrasts voiceless and voiced glottal fricatives.

Vowel length

In linguistics, vowel length is the perceived duration of a vowel sound. Often the chroneme, or the "longness", acts like a consonant, and may have arisen from one etymologically, such as in Australian English. While not distinctive in most other dialects of English, vowel length is an important phonemic factor in many other languages, for instance in






Old English,

Scottish Gaelic


Vietnamese. It plays a phonetic role in the majority of dialects of British English and is said to be phonemic in a few other dialects, such as Australian English, South African English and New Zealand English. It also plays a lesser phonetic role in Cantonese, unlike other varieties of Chinese.

Many languages do not distinguish vowel length phonemically. Those that do usually distinguish between short vowels and long vowels. A very few languages distinguish three phonemic vowel lengths, such as Luiseño and Mixe. However, some languages with two vowel lengths also have words in which long vowels appear adjacent to other short or long vowels of the same type: Japanese hōō "phoenix" or Ancient Greek ἀάατος [a.áː.a.tos] "inviolable". Some languages that do not ordinarily have phonemic vowel length but permit vowel hiatus may similarly exhibit sequences of identical vowel phonemes that yield phonetically long vowels, such as Georgian გააადვილებ [ɡ] "you will facilitate it".


W (named double-u, plural double-ues) is the 23rd letter of the modern English and ISO basic Latin alphabets.

IPA topics

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