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Labiodental nasal

The labiodental nasal is a type of consonantal sound. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɱ⟩. The IPA symbol is a lowercase letter m with a leftward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter. Occasionally it is instead transcribed as an em with a dental diacritic: ⟨⟩.

Labiodental nasal
IPA Number115
Entity (decimal)ɱ
Unicode (hex)U+0271
Braille⠖ (braille pattern dots-235)⠍ (braille pattern dots-134)
Audio sample

It is pronounced very similarly to the bilabial nasal [m], except instead of the lips touching each other, the lower lip touches the upper teeth. The position of the lips and teeth is generally the same as for the production of the other labiodental consonants, like [f] and [v], though closure is incomplete for the fricatives.

Although commonly appearing in languages, it is overwhelmingly present non-phonemically, largely restricted to appear before labiodental consonants like [f] and [v]. A phonemic /ɱ/ has been reported for the Kukuya language, which contrasts it with /m, mpf, mbv/ and is "accompanied by strong protrusion of both lips". It is [ɱʷ] before /a/ and [ɱ] before /i/ and /e/, perhaps because labialization is constrained by the spread front vowels; it does not occur before back (rounded) vowels.[1]

It is doubted by some scholars that a true stop can be made by this gesture because of gaps between the incisors, which for many speakers would allow air to flow during the occlusion;[2] this is particularly pertinent considering that one of the words with this consonant, /ɱáá/, means a 'gap between filed incisors,'[3] a practice of the local people. The /ɱ/ might be better characterized as a labiodental nasal approximant than as a nasal occlusive.

Nonetheless, it is common phonetically, as it is a typical allophone of /m/ and /n/ before the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], as in English comfort, circumvent, infinitive, or invent. In Angami, it occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /ə/. For Drubea, [ɱ] is reported as an allophone of /v/ before nasal vowels.[4]

A proposal to retire the letter ⟨ɱ⟩ was made at the Kiel Convention, at the same time the extensions to the IPA were presented, with the labiodental nasal to be transcribed solely by ⟨⟩, but the proposal was defeated in committee.[5]


Features of the labiodental nasal:

  • Its manner of articulation is occlusive, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. Because the consonant is also nasal, the blocked airflow is redirected through the nose.
  • Its place of articulation is labiodental, which means it is articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is a nasal consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the nose, either exclusively (nasal stops) or in addition to through the mouth.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Phonemic /ɱ/ is extremely rare. As an allophone of nasal consonants before [f] or [v], however, [ɱ] is very common.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Catalan mfora [ˈkaɱfuɾə] 'camphor' See Catalan phonology
Czech tramvaj [ˈtraɱvaj] 'tram' See Czech phonology
Danish symfoni [syɱfoˈniˀ] 'symphony' See Danish phonology
Dutch[6][7] omvallen [ˈʔɔɱvɑlə(n)] 'to fall over' See Dutch phonology
English symphony  [ˈsɪɱfəni] 'symphony' See English phonology
Finnish kamferi [ˈkɑɱfe̞ri] 'camphor' See Finnish phonology
German nf [fʏɱf] 'five' See German phonology
Greek[8] έμβρυο/émvryo [ˈe̞ɱvrio̞] 'embryo' Learned or careful pronunciation. See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew סימפוניה [siɱˈfoɲja] 'symphony' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hungarian hamvad [ˈhɒɱvɒd] 'smoulder' See Hungarian phonology
Italian[9] invece [iɱˈveːt͡ʃe] 'instead' See Italian phonology
Kukuya[10] [ɱíì] 'eyes' Phonemic.
Macedonian трамвај [traɱˈvaj] 'tram' See Macedonian phonology
Norwegian komfyr [kɔɱˈfyːɾ] 'stove' See Norwegian phonology
Romanian învăța [ɨɱˈvət͡sä] 'to learn' See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[11] трамвај / tramvaj [trǎɱʋäj] 'tram' Allophone of /m/ before /f/ and /ʋ/.[11] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene[12] simfonija [siɱfɔˈníːja] 'symphony' Allophone of /m/ and /n/ before /f/ and /ʋ/.[12]
Spanish[13] influir [iɱfluˈiɾ] 'to have influence' See Spanish phonology
Swedish amfibie [aɱˈfiːbjɛ] 'amphibia' See Swedish phonology
West Frisian ûnwis [uːɱ'ʋɪs] 'unsure' Allophone of /n/ before labiodental sounds.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Paulian (1975:57)
  2. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:18)
  3. ^ Paulian (1975:40)
  4. ^ Hajek, John (2009). "Labiodental ɱ in Drubea". Oceanic Linguistics. 48 (2).
  5. ^ Heselwood (2013) Phonetic transcription in theory and practice
  6. ^ Kooij & Van Oostendorp (2003:9)
  7. ^ Verhoeven (2005:243)
  8. ^ Newton (1972:10)
  9. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:118)
  10. ^ Paulian (1975:41)
  11. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999:67)
  12. ^ a b Šuštaršič, Komar & Petek (1999:136)
  13. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:258)


  • Kooij, Jan; Van Oostendorp, Marc (2003), Fonologie: uitnodiging tot de klankleer van het Nederlands, Amsterdam University Press
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), Sounds of the World's Languages, Blackwells
  • Landau, Ernestina; Lončarić, Mijo; Horga, Damir; Škarić, Ivo (1999), "Croatian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 66–69, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • 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
  • Newton, Brian (1972), The generative Interpretation of Dialect: A Study of Modern Greek Phonology, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, 8, Cambridge University Press
  • Paulian, Christiane (1975), Le Kukuya Langue Teke du Congo: phonologie, classes nominales, Peeters Publishers
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 117–121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
  • Šuštaršič, Rastislav; Komar, Smiljana; Petek, Bojan (1999), "Slovene", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 135–139, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2005), "Belgian Standard Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 243–247, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002173

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