Pharyngealization is a secondary articulation of consonants or vowels by which the pharynx or epiglottis is constricted during the articulation of the sound.

IPA Number423, 428
Entity (decimal)ˤ̴
Unicode (hex)U+02E4U+0334

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].
  2. The symbol ˤ (a superscript variant of ⟨ʕ⟩, the voiced pharyngeal approximant; graphically a reversed glottal stop) after the letter standing for the pharyngealized consonant, as in [tˤ] (the pharyngealized equivalent of [t]).

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

The Unicode characters ˤ (U+02E4 modifier letter small reversed glottal stop) and ˁ (U+02C1 modifier letter reversed glottal stop) look graphically similar. The IPA Handbook[1] lists the former, U+02E4 (IPA Number 423), as the only unambiguous pharyngealization marker. The superimposed tilde (U+0334, IPA Number 428) denotes either velarization or pharyngealization, and the IPA Handbook does not mention U+02C1 at all.


Ubykh, an extinct Northwest Caucasian language spoken in Russia and Turkey, used pharyngealization in 14 pharyngealized consonants. Chilcotin has pharyngealized consonants that trigger pharyngealization of vowels. Many languages (such as Salishan, Sahaptian) in the Plateau culture area of North America also have pharyngealization processes that are triggered by pharyngeal or pharyngealized consonants, which affect vowels.

The Khoisan language Taa (or !Xóõ) has pharyngealized vowels that contrast phonemically with voiced, breathy and epiglottalized vowels.[2] That feature is represented in the orthography by a tilde under the respective pharyngealized vowel. In Tuu languages, epiglottalized vowels are phonemic.

For many languages, pharyngealization is generally associated with more dental articulations of coronal consonants. Dark l tends to be dental or denti-alveolar, but clear l tends to be retracted to an alveolar position.[3]

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

Examples of pharyngealized consonants

(Uvularized consonants are not distinguished.)




  • pharyngealized voiced alveolar trill [rˁ] (in Siwa)



Examples of pharyngealized vowels

See also



  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005). Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.). Blackwell.
  • Recasens, Daniel; Espinosa, Aina (2005). "Articulatory, positional and coarticulatory characteristics for clear /l/ and dark /l/: evidence from two Catalan dialects". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 35 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1017/S0025100305001878.
  • International Phonetic Association, ed. (1999). Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

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