|Places of articulation|
Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. Uvulars may be stops, fricatives, nasals, trills, or approximants, though the IPA does not provide a separate symbol for the approximant, and the symbol for the voiced fricative is used instead. Uvular affricates can certainly be made but are rare: they occur in some southern High-German dialects, as well as in a few African and Native American languages. (Ejective uvular affricates occur as realizations of uvular stops in Lillooet, Kazakh and Georgian.) Uvular consonants are typically incompatible with advanced tongue root, and they often cause retraction of neighboring vowels.
Uvular consonants in IPA
The uvular consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
|uvular nasal||Japanese||日本 Nihon||[nʲi.hoɴ]||Japan|
|voiceless uvular stop||Arabic||قصة Qissatun||[qisˤˈsˤɑtun]||a story|
|voiced uvular stop||Inuktitut||utirama||[ʔutiɢama]||because I return|
|voiceless uvular fricative||Castilian Spanish||enjuto||[ẽ̞ɴˈχut̪o̞]||skinny|
|voiced uvular fricative||French||rester||[ʁɛste]||to stay|
|uvular trill||French (20th century Paris accent)||Paris||[paˈʀi]||Paris|
|uvular ejective||Quechua||q'allu||[ˈqʼaʎu]||tomato sauce|
|voiced uvular implosive||Mam||q'a||[ʛa]||fire|
|ʟ̠||uvular lateral approximant|
Descriptions in different languages
English has no uvular consonants, and they are unknown in the indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific, though uvular consonants separate from velar consonants are believed to have existed in the Proto-Oceanic language. Uvular consonants are however found in many African and Middle-Eastern languages, most notably Arabic, and in Native American languages. In parts of the Caucasus mountains and northwestern North America, nearly every language has uvular stops and fricatives. Two uvular Rs are found in north-western Europe. It was once thought that they spread from northern French, but some linguists[who?] believe that contact does not explain the appearance of all uvular Rs in Europe.
The voiceless uvular stop is transcribed as [q] in both the IPA and SAMPA. It is pronounced somewhat like the voiceless velar stop [k], but with the middle of the tongue further back on the velum, against or near the uvula. The most familiar use will doubtless be in the transliteration of Arabic place names such as Qatar and Iraq into English, though, since English lacks this sound, this is generally pronounced as [k], the most similar sound that occurs in English.
[ɢ], the voiced equivalent of [q], is much rarer. It is like the voiced velar stop [ɡ], but articulated in the same uvular position as [q]. Few languages use this sound, but it is found in Persian and in several Northeast Caucasian languages, notably Tabasaran. It may also occur as an allophone of another uvular consonant - in Kazakh, the voiced uvular stop is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative after the velar nasal.
The voiceless uvular fricative [χ] is similar to the voiceless velar fricative [x], except that it is articulated near the uvula. It is found instead of [x] in some dialects of German, Spanish and Arabic.
The Tlingit language of the Alaskan Panhandle has ten uvular consonants:
|tenuis stop||qákʷ||tree spine|
|ejective stop||qʼakʷ||screech owl|
|labialized tenuis stop||náaqʷ||octopus|
|labialized aspirated stop||qʷʰáan||people, tribe|
|labialized ejective stop||qʷʼátɬ||cooking pot|
|ejective fricative||χʼáakʷ||freshwater sockeye salmon|
|labialized voiceless fricative||χʷastáa||canvas, denim|
|labialized ejective fricative||χʷʼáaɬʼ||down (feathers)|
Two variants can the established. Since palatalized consonants are [-back], the appearance of palatalized uvulars in a few languages such as Ubykh is difficult to account for. According to Vaux (1999), they possibly hold the features [+high], [-back], [-ATR], the last being the distinguishing feature from a palatalized velar consonant.
The uvular trill [ʀ] is used in certain dialects (especially those associated with European capitals) of French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian, as well as sometimes in Modern Hebrew, for the rhotic phoneme. In many of these it has a uvular fricative (either voiced [ʁ] or voiceless [χ]) as an allophone when it follows one of the voiceless stops /p/, /t/, or /k/ at the end of a word, as in the French example maître [mɛtχ], or even a uvular approximant.
As with most trills, uvular trills are often reduced to a single contact, especially between vowels.
Unlike other uvular consonants, the uvular trill is articulated without a retraction of the tongue, and therefore doesn't lower neighboring high vowels the way uvular stops commonly do.
In Lakhota the uvular trill is an allophone of the voiced uvular fricative before /i/.
- Vaux, Bert (1999). "A Note on Pharyngeal Features". Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics.