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Dorsal consonant

Tongue shape

Dorsal consonants are articulated with the mid body of the tongue (the dorsum). They contrast with coronal consonants articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and radical consonants articulated with the root of the tongue.


The dorsum of the tongue can contact a broad region of the roof of the mouth, from the hard palate (palatal consonants), the flexible velum behind that (velar consonants), to the uvula at the back of the mouth cavity (uvular consonants). These distinctions are not clear cut, and sometimes finer gradations such as pre-palatal, pre-velar, and post-velar will be noted.

Because the tip of the tongue can curl back to also contact the hard palate for retroflex consonants, consonants produced by contact between the dorsum and the palate are sometimes called dorso-palatal.


Familiar dorsal consonants
IPA symbol Name of the consonant Language Example IPA
j Palatal approximant English yellow /jɛloʊ/
ɡ Voiced velar stop garden /gɑrdən/
k Voiceless velar stop cake /keɪk/
x Voiceless velar fricative Scottish English loch /lɒx/
w Labio-velar approximant English water /wɒter/
q Voiceless uvular stop Arabic Qurʾān (قرآن) /qurʔaːn/
ʁ Voiced uvular fricative
or approximant
French Paris /paʁi/
χ Voiceless uvular fricative German Bach [baχ]

See also