In linguistics, a tenuis consonant // is a plosive or affricate consonant which is unvoiced, unaspirated, and unglottalized. That is, it has a "plain" phonation like [p, t, ts, tʃ, k], with a voice onset time close to zero, as in Spanish p, t, ch, k, or as in English p, t, k after s (spy, sty, sky).
In transcription, tenuis consonants are not normally marked explicitly, with voiceless IPA letters such as ⟨p, t, ts, tʃ, k⟩ assumed to be unaspirated unless indicated otherwise. However, there is an explicit diacritic for a lack of aspiration in the Extensions to the IPA, the superscript equal sign: ⟨p˭, t˭, ts˭, tʃ˭, k˭⟩, and this is sometimes seen in phonetic descriptions of languages.
The term tenuis comes from Latin translations of Ancient Greek grammar, which differentiated three series of consonants, voiced β δ γ /b d ɡ/, aspirate φ θ χ /pʰ tʰ kʰ/, and tenuis π τ κ /p˭ t˭ k˭/; these series have close parallels in other Indo-European languages, such as Armenian. The term "tenuis" was widely used in 19th-century philology, and became uncommon in the 20th. However, common replacement words such as "plain", "unvoiced", and "unaspirated" are imprecise ([tʰ] is unvoiced, [d] is unaspirated, and [n] is plain).
In Unicode, the symbol is encoded at U+02ED ˭ modifier letter unaspirated (HTML:
- Collins & Mees, 1984, The Sounds of English and Dutch, p 281.
- Bussmann, 1996. Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics
- R.L. Trask, 1996. A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology.
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