Labial consonant

Labial consonant

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Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator
Manner of articulation
In linguistics, manner of articulation describes how the tongue, lips, jaw, and other speech organs are involved in making a sound. Often the concept is only used for the production of consonants, even though the movement of the articulars will also greatly alter the resonant properties of the...

. This precludes linguolabials
Linguolabial consonant
Linguolabials or apicolabials are consonants articulated by placing the tongue tip or blade against the upper lip, which is drawn downward to meet the tongue. They represent one extreme of a coronal articulatory continuum which extends from linguolabial to subapical palatal places of articulation...

, in which the tip of the tongue
Tongue
The tongue is a muscular hydrostat on the floors of the mouths of most vertebrates which manipulates food for mastication. It is the primary organ of taste , as much of the upper surface of the tongue is covered in papillae and taste buds. It is sensitive and kept moist by saliva, and is richly...

 reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip
Upper lip
The upper lip covers the anterior surface of the body of the maxilla.Its upper half is of usual skin color and has a depression at its centre, directly under the nasal septum, called the philtrum, while its lower half is a markedly different, red-colored skin tone more similar to the colour of the...

 and which are considered coronals
Coronal consonant
Coronal consonants are consonants articulated with the flexible front part of the tongue. Only the coronal consonants can be divided into apical , laminal , domed , or subapical , as well as a few rarer orientations, because only the front of the tongue has such...

. The two by far most common labials are bilabials
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

, articulated using both lips, and labiodentals
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

, articulated with the lower lip
Lower lip
The lower lip covers the anterior body of the mandible.It is lowered by the Depressor labii inferioris muscle....

 against the upper teeth, both of which are present in English
English phonology
English phonology is the study of the sound system of the English language. Like many languages, English has wide variation in pronunciation, both historically and from dialect to dialect...

. Other labials include dentolabials
Dentolabial consonant
Dentolabial consonants are consonants articulated with the lower teeth against the upper lip, the reverse of labiodental consonants. They are rare cross-linguistically, but one allophone of Swedish has been described as a velarized dentolabial fricative....

, articulated with the upper lip against the lower teeth, the reverse of labiodental.

The most common distribution between bilabials and labiodentals is the English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 one, in which the stops
Stop consonant
In phonetics, a plosive, also known as an occlusive or an oral stop, is a stop consonant in which the vocal tract is blocked so that all airflow ceases. The occlusion may be done with the tongue , lips , and &...

, [m], [p], and [b], are bilabial and the fricatives
Fricative consonant
Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German , the final consonant of Bach; or...

, [f], and [v], are labiodental. Bilabial fricative
Bilabial fricative
A bilabial fricative is a phone whose place of articulation is bilabial and whose manner of articulation is fricative.There are two bilabial fricatives, neither of which appears in standard English. The voiced bilabial fricative is a sound similar to English v, but with the air going between the...

s and the bilabial approximant do not exist in English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, but do occur in many languages. For example, the Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 consonant spelt b or v is pronounced as a voiced bilabial approximant between vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s.

Lip rounding, or labialization
Labialisation
Labialization is a secondary articulatory feature of sounds in some languages. Labialized sounds involve the lips while the remainder of the oral cavity produces another sound. The term is normally restricted to consonants. When vowels involve the lips, they are called rounded.The most common...

, is a common approximant
Approximant consonant
Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough or with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no...

-like co-articulatory
Secondary articulation
Secondary articulation refers to co-articulated consonants where the two articulations are not of the same manner. The approximant-like secondary articulation is weaker than the primary, and colors it rather than obscuring it...

 feature. English /w/ is a voiced labialized velar approximant, which is far more common than the purely labial approximant
Labial approximant
Labial approximant may refer to* Labio-velar approximant* Labiodental approximant...

. In the languages of the Caucasus
Languages of the Caucasus
The languages of the Caucasus are a large and extremely varied array of languages spoken by more than ten million people in and around the Caucasus Mountains, which lie between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea....

 labialized dorsals
Dorsal consonant
Dorsal consonants are articulated with the mid body of the tongue . They contrast with coronal consonants articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and radical consonants articulated with the root of the tongue.-Function:...

 like /kʷ/ and /qʷ/ are very common.

Very few languages, however, make a distinction purely between bilabials
Bilabial consonant
In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips. The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

 and labiodentals
Labiodental consonant
In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

, making "labial" usually a sufficient specification of a language's phoneme
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

s. One language that does make such a distinction is Ewe
Ewe language
Ewe is a Niger–Congo language spoken in Ghana, Togo and Benin by approximately six million people. Ewe is part of a cluster of related languages commonly called Gbe, spoken in southeastern Ghana, Togo, and parts of Benin. Other Gbe languages include Fon, Gen, Phla Phera, and Aja...

, having both kinds of fricatives, though the labiodentals are produced with greater articulatory force.

Lack of labials


While most languages make use of purely labial phonemes, a few generally lack them. Examples are Tlingit
Tlingit language
The Tlingit language ) is spoken by the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska and Western Canada. It is a branch of the Na-Dené language family. Tlingit is very endangered, with fewer than 140 native speakers still living, all of whom are bilingual or near-bilingual in English...

, Eyak
Eyak language
Eyak is an extinct Na-Dené language that was historically spoken by the Eyak people, indigenous to southcentral Alaska, near the mouth of the Copper River.The closest relatives of Eyak are the Athabaskan languages...

 (both Na-Dené
Na-Dené languages
Na-Dene is a Native American language family which includes at least the Athabaskan languages, Eyak, and Tlingit languages. An inclusion of Haida is controversial....

), Wichita
Wichita language
Wichita is a moribund Caddoan language spoken in Oklahoma by the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. Only one fluent speaker remains, Doris McLemore, although in 2007 there were only three first language learners still alive...

 (Caddoan
Caddoan languages
The Caddoan languages are a family of Native American languages. They are spoken by Native Americans in parts of the Great Plains of the central United States, from North Dakota south to Oklahoma.-Family division:...

), and the Iroquoian languages
Iroquoian languages
The Iroquoian languages are a First Nation and Native American language family.-Family division:*Ruttenber, Edward Manning. 1992 [1872]. History of the Indian tribes of Hudson's River. Hope Farm Press....

 except Cherokee
Cherokee language
Cherokee is an Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people which uses a unique syllabary writing system. It is the only Southern Iroquoian language that remains spoken. Cherokee is a polysynthetic language.-North American etymology:...

. All of these languages have seen labials introduced under the influence of English.