In phonetics, denasalization is the loss of nasal airflow in a nasal sound, such as a nasal consonant or a nasal vowel.[1] That may be due to speech pathology but also occurs when the sinuses are blocked from a common cold, when it is called a nasal voice, which is not a linguistic term.[2] Acoustically, it is the "absence of the expected nasal resonance."[3] The symbol in the Extended IPA is ⟨◌͊⟩.


When one speaks with a cold, the nasal passages still function as a resonant cavity so a denasalized nasal [m͊] does not sound like a voiced oral stop [b], and a denasalized vowel [a͊] does not sound like an oral vowel [a].

However, there are cases of historical or allophonic denasalization that have produced oral stops. In some languages with nasal vowels, such as Paicĩ, nasal consonants may occur only before nasal vowels; before oral vowels, prenasalized stops are found. That allophonic variation is likely to be from a historical process of partial denasalization.

Similarly, several languages around Puget Sound underwent a process of denasalization about 100 years ago. Except in special speech registers, such as baby talk, the nasals [m, n] became the voiced stops [b, d]. It appears from historical records that there was an intermediate stage in which the stops were prenasalized stops [ᵐb, ⁿd] or poststopped nasals [mᵇ, nᵈ].

Something similar has occurred with word-initial nasals in Korean; in some contexts, /m/, /n/ are denasalized to [b, d]. The process is sometimes represented with the IPA [m͊] and [n͊], which simply places the IPA ◌͊ denasalization diacritic on [m] and [n] to show the underlying phoneme.[4]

In speech pathology, practice varies in whether ⟨⟩ is a partially denasalized /m/, with ⟨b⟩ for full denasalization, or is a target /m/ whether partially denasalized or a fully denasalized [b].[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Denasalization". SLT info. 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  2. ^ "What is Denasalization?". The Glossika Blog. 2016-07-26. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  3. ^ Martin Duckworth, George Allen, William Hardcastle & Martin Ball (1990) ‘Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for the transcription of atypical speech.’ Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 4: 4, p. 276.
  4. ^ "(PDF) Denasalization, Vocalic Nasalization and Related Issues in Southern Min: A Dialectal and Comparative Perspective". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2019-02-18.
  5. ^ Anette Lohmander (2011) Cleft Palate Speech: Assessment and Intervention, §7.5.2