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



IPA symbolsEdit

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⟩ or ⟨ˁ⟩ (a superscript voiced pharyngeal approximant, or reversed glottal stop) after the letter standing for the pharyngealized consonant, as in [tˤ] or [tˁ] (the pharyngealized equivalent of [t]).

Both are easily confused in print: they look almost identical and are coded as superscript variants of ⟨ʕ⟩.

The swung dash 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 consonantsᵵ ᵭ ᵴ ᵶ ᵰ ᵲ ᵳ ɫ⟩.

The intended difference between the two Unicode values ⟨ˤ⟩ and ⟨ˁ⟩ is unclear. Graphically, the first more closely resembles a superscript ⟨ʕ⟩, while the second resembles a reversed ⟨ˀ⟩ (superscript glottal stop).


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.[1] That feature is represented in the orthography by a tilde under the respective pharyngealized vowel. In Danish, many of the vowel phonemes have distinct pharyngealized qualities. 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.[2]

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

Examples of pharyngealized consonantsEdit

(Uvularized consonants are not distinguished.)





See alsoEdit



  • 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. 

Further readingEdit