Postalveolar consonant

Postalveolar consonant

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Postalveolar consonants (sometimes spelled post-alveolar) are consonant
Consonant
In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of the tongue; , pronounced in the throat; and ,...

s articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge
Alveolar ridge
An alveolar ridge is one of the two jaw ridges either on the roof of the mouth between the upper teeth and the hard palate or on the bottom of the mouth behind the lower teeth. The alveolar ridges contain the sockets of the teeth....

, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

s, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate
Palate
The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammals. It separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. A similar structure is found in crocodilians, but, in most other tetrapods, the oral and nasal cavities are not truly separate. The palate is divided into two parts, the anterior...

 (the place of articulation for palatal consonant
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

s). Examples of postalveolar consonants are 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...

 palato-alveolar consonant
Palato-alveolar consonant
In phonetics, palato-alveolar consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed tongue...

s [ʃ] [tʃ] [ʒ] [dʒ], as in the words "shill", "'chill", "vision", and "Jill", respectively.

There are a large number of types of postalveolar sounds, especially among the sibilants. The three primary types are palato-alveolar
Palato-alveolar consonant
In phonetics, palato-alveolar consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed tongue...

(e.g. [ʃ ʒ], weakly palatalized); alveolo-palatal
Alveolo-palatal consonant
In phonetics, alveolo-palatal consonants are palatalized postalveolar sounds, usually fricatives and affricates, articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate...

(e.g. [ɕ ʑ], strongly palatalized); and retroflex
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

(e.g. [ʂ ʐ], unpalatalized). The palato-alveolar and alveolo-palatal subtypes are commonly counted as "palatals" in phonology
Phonology
Phonology is, broadly speaking, the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language. That is, it is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use...

, since they rarely contrast with true palatal consonant
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

s.

Sibilant postalveolars


The sibilant postalveolars (i.e. fricative
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...

s and affricate
Affricate consonant
Affricates are consonants that begin as stops but release as a fricative rather than directly into the following vowel.- Samples :...

s) are sometimes called "hush consonants" because they include the sound of English Shhh!. For most sounds involving the tongue, the place of articulation
Place of articulation
In articulatory phonetics, the place of articulation of a consonant is the point of contact where an obstruction occurs in the vocal tract between an articulatory gesture, an active articulator , and a passive location...

 can be sufficiently identified just by specifying the point of contact on the upper part of the mouth (e.g. the soft palate velar consonant
Velar consonant
Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum)....

s or between the teeth for interdental consonant
Interdental consonant
Interdental consonants are produced by placing the blade of the tongue against the upper incisors...

s), along with any secondary articulation
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...

 such as palatalization
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

 (raising of the tongue body) or labialization (lip rounding). However, among sibilants, and postalveolar sibilants in particular, slight differences in the shape of the tongue and the point of contact on the tongue correspond to large differences in the resulting sound. As a result it is necessary to specify many additional subtypes.

Tongue shape


The main distinction is the shape of the tongue, which corresponds to differing degrees of palatalization
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

 (raising of the front of the tongue). From least to most palatalized, these are retroflex
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

(e.g. [ʂ ʐ], unpalatalized); palato-alveolar
Palato-alveolar consonant
In phonetics, palato-alveolar consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed tongue...

(e.g. [ʃ ʒ], weakly palatalized); and alveolo-palatal
Alveolo-palatal consonant
In phonetics, alveolo-palatal consonants are palatalized postalveolar sounds, usually fricatives and affricates, articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate...

(e.g. [ɕ ʑ], strongly palatalized). The increasing palatalization corresponds to progressively higher-pitched and sharper-sounding consonants. Speaking non-technically, the retroflex consonant [ʂ] sounds somewhat like a mixture between the regular English [ʃ] of "ship" and the "h" at the beginning of "heard", especially when pronounced forcefully and with a strong American "r"; while the alveolo-palatal consonant [ɕ] sounds like a strongly palatalized version of [ʃ]; somewhat like "nourish you".

Palato-alveolar sounds are normally described as having a convex (bunched-up or domed) tongue, i.e. the front, central part of the tongue is somewhat raised compared to the tip, back and sides, which gives it weak palatalization. For retroflex sounds, the tongue shape is either concave (usually when apical or subapical, i.e. when made with the tip of the tongue), or flat (usually when laminal, i.e. made with the area behind the tongue tip). For alveolo-palatal sounds, the front half of the tongue is flat, and raised so that it closely parallels the upper surface of the mouth, from the teeth to the hard palate; behind that is a sudden convex bend.

The following table shows the three types of postalveolar sibilant fricatives defined in the IPA:
IPA signs for postalveolar sibilants
Voiceless Voiced
IPA Description Example IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative
Voiceless postalveolar fricative
The voiceless palato-alveolar fricative or voiceless domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in many spoken languages, including English...

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...

shin [ʃɪn] shin Voiced palato-alveolar fricative
Voiced postalveolar fricative
The voiced palato-alveolar fricative or voiced domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is Z. An alternative symbol used in some...

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...

vision [vɪʒən] vision
Voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative Mandarin 小 (xiǎo) [ɕiɑu˨˩˦] small Voiced alveolo-palatal fricative Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

zioło [ʑɔwɔ] herb
voiceless retroflex fricative Mandarin 上海 (Shànghǎi) [ʂɑ̂ŋ.xàɪ] Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

voiced retroflex fricative Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...


Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

жаба
żaba
[ʐaba] toad
frog

Point of tongue contact (laminal, apical, subapical)


A second variable is whether the contact occurs with the very tip of the tongue (an apical
Apical consonant
An apical consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the apex of the tongue . This contrasts with laminal consonants, which are produced by creating an obstruction with the blade of the tongue .This is not a very common distinction, and typically applied only to fricatives...

articulation [ʃ̺]); with the surface just above the tip, called the blade of the tongue (a laminal
Laminal consonant
A laminal consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the blade of the tongue, which is the flat top front surface just behind the tip of the tongue on the top. This contrasts with apical consonants, which are produced by creating an obstruction with the tongue apex only...

articulation [ʃ̻]); or with the underside of the tip (a subapical articulation). Apical and subapical articulations are always "tongue-up", with the tip of the tongue above the teeth, while laminal articulations are often "tongue-down", with the tip of the tongue behind the lower teeth.

The upward curvature of the tongue tip to make apical or subapical contact renders palatalization more difficult, so domed (palato-alveolar) consonants are not attested with subapical articulation, and fully palatalized (e.g. alveolo-palatal) sounds occur only with laminal articulation. Furthermore, the apical-laminal distinction among palato-alveolar sounds makes little (although presumably non-zero) perceptible difference; both articulations, in fact, occur among English speakers.

As a result, the differing points of tongue contact (laminal, apical and subapical) are significant largely for retroflex sounds. Retroflex sounds can also occur outside of the postalveolar region, ranging from as far back as the hard palate
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

 to as far forward as the alveolar region
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

 behind the teeth. Subapical retroflex sounds are often palatal (and vice-versa); such sounds occur particularly in the Dravidian languages
Dravidian languages
The Dravidian language family includes approximately 85 genetically related languages, spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and...

. Alveolar retroflex sounds tend to be apical (so-called "apico-alveolar sibilants"), which are well-known from their occurrence in northern Iberia
Iberia
The name Iberia refers to three historical regions of the old world:* Iberian Peninsula, in Southwest Europe, location of modern-day Portugal and Spain** Prehistoric Iberia...

, like in Astur-Leonese, Basque
Basque language
Basque is the ancestral language of the Basque people, who inhabit the Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France. It is spoken by 25.7% of Basques in all territories...

, Castilian Spanish
Castilian Spanish
Castilian Spanish is a term related to the Spanish language, but its exact meaning can vary even in that language. In English Castilian Spanish usually refers to the variety of European Spanish spoken in north and central Spain or as the language standard for radio and TV speakers...

, Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, Galician
Galician language
Galician is a language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is co-official with Castilian Spanish, as well as in border zones of the neighbouring territories of Asturias and Castile and León.Modern Galician and...

 and Northern Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

. As a result of the large number of retroflex varieties, differing IPA symbols are sometimes used; for example, more forward articulations are often denoted [s̠] (with a retracted diacritic attached to alveolar [s]) rather than [ʂ]. For more information on these differing varieties, see the article on retroflex consonant
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

s.

Position of tongue tip (laminal "closed")


There is an additional distinction that can be made among tongue-down laminal sounds, depending on where exactly behind the lower teeth the tongue tip is placed. A little ways back from the lower teeth is a hollowed area (or pit) in the lower surface of the mouth. When the tongue tip rests in this hollowed area, there is an empty space below the tongue (a sublingual cavity), which results in a relatively more "hushing" sound. When the tip of the tongue rests against the lower teeth, there is no sublingual cavity, resulting in a more "hissing" sound. Generally, the tongue-down postalveolar consonants have the tongue tip on the hollowed area (with a sublingual cavity), while for the tongue-down alveolar consonants, the tongue tip rests against the teeth (no sublingual cavity); this accentuates the hissing vs. hushing distinction of these sounds.

However, the palato-alveolar sibilants in the Northwest Caucasian languages
Northwest Caucasian languages
The Northwest Caucasian languages, also called Abkhazo-Adyghean, or sometimes Pontic as opposed to Caspian for the Northeast Caucasian languages, are a group of languages spoken in the Caucasus region, chiefly in Russia , the disputed territory of Abkhazia, and Turkey, with smaller communities...

 such as Ubykh
Ubykh language
Ubykh or Ubyx is an extinct language of the Northwestern Caucasian group, spoken by the Ubykh people...

 have the tongue tip resting directly against the lower teeth rather than in the hollowed area. Ladefoged and Maddieson term this a "closed laminal postalveolar" articulation, which gives the sounds a quality that Catford describes as "hissing-hushing" sounds. Catford transcribes them as [ŝ, ẑ] (note: this is not IPA notation). A laminal "closed" articulation could also be made with alveolo-palatal sibilants and a laminal "non-closed" articulation with alveolar sibilants, but no language appears to do so. In addition, no language seems to have a minimal contrast between two sounds based only on the "closed"/"non-closed" variation, with no concomitant articulatory distinctions (i.e. for all languages, including the Northwest Caucasian languages
Northwest Caucasian languages
The Northwest Caucasian languages, also called Abkhazo-Adyghean, or sometimes Pontic as opposed to Caspian for the Northeast Caucasian languages, are a group of languages spoken in the Caucasus region, chiefly in Russia , the disputed territory of Abkhazia, and Turkey, with smaller communities...

, if the language has two laminal sibilants, one of which is "closed" while the other is "non-closed", they will also differ in some other ways).

Examples


A few languages distinguish three different postalveolar sibilant tongue shapes (/ʂ/ /ʃ/ /ɕ/). Examples are the Tibeto-Burman languages
Tibeto-Burman languages
The Tibeto-Burman languages are the non-Chinese members of the Sino-Tibetan language family, over 400 of which are spoken thoughout the highlands of southeast Asia, as well as lowland areas in Burma ....

 Northern Qiang and Southern Qiang, which make such a distinction among affricates (but only a two-way distinction among fricatives) and the Northwest Caucasian language
Northwest Caucasian languages
The Northwest Caucasian languages, also called Abkhazo-Adyghean, or sometimes Pontic as opposed to Caspian for the Northeast Caucasian languages, are a group of languages spoken in the Caucasus region, chiefly in Russia , the disputed territory of Abkhazia, and Turkey, with smaller communities...

 Ubkyh
Ubykh language
Ubykh or Ubyx is an extinct language of the Northwestern Caucasian group, spoken by the Ubykh people...

 (whose palato-alveolar /ʃ/ is of the laminal "closed" type, sometimes indicated phonetically as [ŝ]). More common are languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 that distinguish two postalveolar sibilants, typically /ʂ/ /ɕ/ because they are maximally distinct. For more information on possible distinctions, see the article on sibilants.

The attested possibilities, with exemplar languages, are as follows. Note that the IPA diacritics are simplified; some articulations would require two diacritics to be fully specified, but only one is used in order to keep the results legible without the need for OpenType
OpenType
OpenType is a format for scalable computer fonts. It was built on its predecessor TrueType, retaining TrueType's basic structure and adding many intricate data structures for prescribing typographic behavior...

 IPA fonts. Also, Ladefoged
Peter Ladefoged
Peter Nielsen Ladefoged was an English-American linguist and phonetician who traveled the world to document the distinct sounds of endangered languages and pioneered ways to collect and study data . He was active at the universities of Edinburgh, Scotland and Ibadan, Nigeria 1953–61...

 has resurrected an obsolete IPA symbol, the under dot, to indicate apical postalveolar (normally included in the category of retroflex consonant
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

s), and that notation is used here. (Note that the notation s̠, ṣ is sometimes reversed; either may also be called 'retroflex' and written ʂ.)

IPA Place of articulation Exemplifying languages
[s̠ z̠] laminal flat postalveolar (laminal retroflex) Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

 sz, rz, cz, dż
[ṣ ẓ] apical postalveolar (apical retroflex) Mandarin sh, zh, ch, Ubykh
Ubykh language
Ubykh or Ubyx is an extinct language of the Northwestern Caucasian group, spoken by the Ubykh people...

, Toda
Toda language
Toda is a Dravidian language well known for its many fricatives and trills. It is spoken by the Toda people, a population of about one thousand who live in the Nilgiri Hills of southern India.-Vowels:...

[ʃ ʒ] domed postalveolar (palato-alveolar) 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...

 sh, zh (may be either laminal or apical)
[ʃ̻ ʒ̻] laminal domed postalveolar Toda
[ɕ ʑ] laminal palatalized postalveolar (alveolo-palatal) Mandarin q, j, x, Polish ć, ś, ź, dź, Ubykh
[ŝ ẑ] laminal closed postalveolar Ubykh
[ʂ ʐ] subapical postalveolar or palatal (subapical retroflex) Toda

Postalveolar non-sibilants


Non-sibilant sounds can also be made in the postalveolar region. For these sounds, however, the number of acoustically distinct variations is significantly reduced. The primary distinction for such sounds is between laminal
Laminal consonant
A laminal consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the blade of the tongue, which is the flat top front surface just behind the tip of the tongue on the top. This contrasts with apical consonants, which are produced by creating an obstruction with the tongue apex only...

 palatalized and apical
Apical consonant
An apical consonant is a phone produced by obstructing the air passage with the apex of the tongue . This contrasts with laminal consonants, which are produced by creating an obstruction with the blade of the tongue .This is not a very common distinction, and typically applied only to fricatives...

 retroflex
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

 non-palatalized. (Subapical retroflex non-sibilants also occur but tend to be palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

, as for sibilants.)

Non-palatalized (retroflex)


Retroflex stops, nasals and laterals (e.g. [ʈ ɳ ɭ]) occur in a number of languages across the world. Examples are the South Asian languages (e.g. Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

) and various East Asian languages
East Asian languages
East Asian languages describe two notional groupings of languages in East and Southeast Asia:* Languages which have been greatly influenced by Classical Chinese and the Chinese writing system, in particular Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese .* The larger grouping of languages includes the...

 such as Vietnamese
Vietnamese language
Vietnamese is the national and official language of Vietnam. It is the mother tongue of 86% of Vietnam's population, and of about three million overseas Vietnamese. It is also spoken as a second language by many ethnic minorities of Vietnam...

. The sounds are fairly rare in European languages but do occur, for example, in Swedish
Swedish language
Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

, where they are often considered to be allophone
Allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

s of sequences such as /rn/ or /rt/. Also, for some languages that distinguish "dental" vs. "alveolar" stops and nasals, these are actually articulated closer to prealveolar and postalveolar, respectively.

The normal rhotic consonant
Rhotic consonant
In phonetics, rhotic consonants, also called tremulants or "R-like" sounds, are liquid consonants that are traditionally represented orthographically by symbols derived from the Greek letter rho, including "R, r" from the Roman alphabet and "Р, p" from the Cyrillic alphabet...

  (r-sound) in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

 is a retroflex approximant [ɻ] (the equivalent in British English
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 is an alveolar approximant [ɹ]). Retroflex rhotics of various sorts, especially 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...

s and flap
Flap consonant
In phonetics, a flap or tap is a type of consonantal sound, which is produced with a single contraction of the muscles so that one articulator is thrown against another.-Contrast with stops and trills:...

s occur commonly in the world's languages. Some languages also have retroflex trills. Malayalam
Malayalam language
Malayalam , is one of the four major Dravidian languages of southern India. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India with official language status in the state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. It is spoken by 35.9 million people...

 in fact has two trills, at least for many speakers — [r̟] vs. [r̠] — the latter of which is retroflex. Toda
Toda language
Toda is a Dravidian language well known for its many fricatives and trills. It is spoken by the Toda people, a population of about one thousand who live in the Nilgiri Hills of southern India.-Vowels:...

 is particularly unusual is having six trills, including a palatalized/non-palatalized distinction and a three-way place distinction among dental, alveolar and retroflex trills.

Palatalized


Palatalized postalveolar non-sibilants are usually considered to be alveolo-palatal. Some non-sibilant sounds in some languages are said to be palato-alveolar rather than alveolo-palatal, but in practice it is unclear if there is any consistent acoustic distinction between the two types of sounds.

In phonological descriptions, alveolo-palatal postalveolar non-sibilants are usually not distinguished as such. Instead, they are considered to be variants of either palatal
Palatal consonant
Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the body of the tongue raised against the hard palate...

 non-sibilants (e.g. [c ɲ ʎ], or of palatalized alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

 non-sibilants (e.g. [tʲ nʲ lʲ]). Even these two types are often not distinguished among nasals and laterals, as the vast majority of languages have only one palatalized nasal or lateral in the For example, the sound described as a "palatal lateral" in various Romance languages and often indicated as /ʎ/ varies from an actual palatal sound [ʎ] in Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 to an alveolo-palatal [ḻʲ] in Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

 to a palatalized alveolar [lʲ] in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazilian Portuguese
Brazilian Portuguese is a group of Portuguese dialects written and spoken by most of the 190 million inhabitants of Brazil and by a few million Brazilian emigrants, mainly in the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Canada, Japan and Paraguay....

.

The IPA does not have specific symbols for alveolo-palatal non-sibilants, but they can be denoted using a combination of the palatalized and retracted diacritics, e.g. [ṯʲ ṉʲ ḻʲ]. Sinologists
Sinology
Sinology in general use is the study of China and things related to China, but, especially in the American academic context, refers more strictly to the study of classical language and literature, and the philological approach...

 often use special symbols for alveolo-palatal non-sibilants, e.g. [ȶ ȵ ȴ], created by analogy with the curls used to mark alveolo-palatal sibilants. However, the actual sounds indicated using these symbols are often palatal or palatalized alveolar rather than alveolo-palatal, just like the variation for symbols like [ɲ ʎ]. (The decision to use the special alveolo-palatal symbols in Sinological circles is largely based on distributional similarities between the sounds in question and the alveolo-palatal sibilants, which are prominent in many East Asian languages.)

However, a few languages do distinguish alveolo-palatal sounds from other palatalized non-sibilants in the dental-to-palatal region. Many dialects of Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 in fact have a three-way distinction among palatalized nasals between dorsal palatal [ɲ], laminal alveolo-palatal [ṉʲ], and apical palatalized alveolar [nʲ]. (Note that, as is typical with oppositions among similar sounds in a single language, the sounds are maximally different in that each one differs both in the point of contact on the tongue — dorsal vs. laminal vs. apical — and the roof of the mouth — palatal vs. postalveolar vs. alveolar — from all others.) The other dialects have lost one of the two palatalized coronals, but still have a two-way distinction. A similar distinction between palatal [ɲ] and alveolo-palatal [ṉʲ] exists in some non-standard forms of Malayalam
Malayalam language
Malayalam , is one of the four major Dravidian languages of southern India. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India with official language status in the state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. It is spoken by 35.9 million people...

.

Examples


Some languages distinguish palatalized (alveolo-palatal) and non-palatalized (retroflex) postalveolar nasals and/or laterals. Some of the most notable distinctions among acute (dental-to-palatal) non-sibilants are as follows.

Some Australian languages distinguish four coronal
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...

 nasals and laterals: laminal dental [n̪ l̪], apical alveolar [n l], laminal postalveolar (palatalized) [ṉʲ ḻʲ], and apical postalveolar (retroflex) [ɳ ɭ].

The non-standard Malayalam
Malayalam language
Malayalam , is one of the four major Dravidian languages of southern India. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India with official language status in the state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry. It is spoken by 35.9 million people...

 dialects mentioned above have five acute (including four coronal) nasals: laminal dental [n̪], apical alveolar [n], laminal postalveolar (palatalized) [ṉʲ], subapical palatal (retroflex) [ɳ], and dorsal palatal (palatalized) [ɲ] (in addition to labial [m] and velar [ŋ]). Standard Malayalam is missing the laminal palatalized postalveolar.

The conservative Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 dialects mentioned above likewise have five acute nasals, again including four coronal; however, only four different primary articulations are involved, as a secondary velarized/palatalized distinction is at play. The sounds in question are: laminal dental velarized [n̪ˠ], apical alveolar velarized [nˠ], apical alveolar palatalized [nʲ], laminal postalveolar (palatalized) [ṉʲ], and dorsal palatal [ɲ] (in addition to labial velarized [mˠ], labial palatalized [mʲ] and velar [ŋ]). These eight sounds participate in four velarized/palatalized pairs: [mˠ mʲ]; [n̪ˠ ṉʲ]; [nˠ nʲ]; [ŋ ɲ]. Other dialects have variously reduced the four coronal nasals to three or two.

Postalveolar clicks


There are two postalveolar click consonant
Click consonant
Clicks are speech sounds found as consonants in many languages of southern Africa, and in three languages of East Africa. Examples of these sounds familiar to English speakers are the tsk! tsk! or tut-tut used to express disapproval or pity, the tchick! used to spur on a horse, and the...

 releases that can occur, commonly described as "postalveolar
Postalveolar click
The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is...

" and "palatal
Palatal click
The palato-alveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa. They are commonly called palatal clicks.The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is , a pipe...

" but perhaps more accurately described as apical and laminal postalveolar, respectively:
IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Apical (post)alveolar click release
Postalveolar click
The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is...

Nama
Nama language
The Khoekhoe language, or Khoekhoegowab, also known by the ethnic term Nàmá and previously the now-discouraged term Hottentot, is the most widespread of the Khoisan languages. It belongs to the Khoe language family, and is spoken in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa by three ethnic groups, the...

!oas [k͡ǃoas] hollow
Laminal postalveolar click release
Palatal click
The palato-alveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa. They are commonly called palatal clicks.The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is , a pipe...

!Kung
!Kung language
!Kung or !Xun, also called Ju, is a dialect continuum spoken in Namibia, Botswana, and Angola by the !Kung people. Together with the ǂHoan language, it forms the Kx'a language family...

ǂua [k͡ǂwa] to imitate

See also

  • Place of articulation
    Place of articulation
    In articulatory phonetics, the place of articulation of a consonant is the point of contact where an obstruction occurs in the vocal tract between an articulatory gesture, an active articulator , and a passive location...

  • Palato-alveolar consonant
    Palato-alveolar consonant
    In phonetics, palato-alveolar consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed tongue...

  • Alveolo-palatal consonant
    Alveolo-palatal consonant
    In phonetics, alveolo-palatal consonants are palatalized postalveolar sounds, usually fricatives and affricates, articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate...

  • Retroflex consonant
    Retroflex consonant
    A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

  • List of phonetics topics