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Linguolabial consonant

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Tongue shape

Linguolabials or apicolabials[1] 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. Cross-linguistically, linguolabial consonants are very rare, though they do not represent a particularly exotic combination of articulatory configurations, unlike click consonants or ejectives. They are found in a cluster of languages in Vanuatu, in the Kajoko dialect of Bijago in Guinea-Bissau, as well as in Umotína (a recently extinct Bororoan language of Brazil), and as extraphonotactic sounds worldwide.

File:Linguolabial stop.png
Sagittal section of linguolabial stop

The linguolabial consonants are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by adding the "seagull" diacritic, Template:Unichar, to the corresponding alveolar consonant, or with the apical diacritic, Template:Unichar, on the corresponding bilabial consonant.[2]

List of consonants

(two transcriptions)
Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
linguolabial nasal Araki m̈ana [n̼ana] "laugh"[3]
voiceless linguolabial plosive Tangoa [t̼et̼e] "butterfly"[4]
voiced linguolabial plosive Kajoko dialect of Bijago [nɔ̀-d̼ɔ́ːɡ] "stone"[5]
n̼d̼ m̺b̺ prenasalized voiced linguolabial plosive Vao [nan̼d̼ak] "bow"[4]
θ̼ ɸ̺ voiceless linguolabial fricative Big Nambas [ˈinɛθ̼] "he is asthmatic"
ð̼ β̺ voiced linguolabial fricative Tangoa [ð̼atu] "stone"[4]
ʙ̺ linguolabial trill
(uses lower lip)
Coatlán Zapotec r̼ʔ mimesis for a child's fart[6]
(blowing a raspberry)
ǀ̼ or ʇ̼ ʘ̺ linguolabial click Coatlán Zapotec ǀ̼ʔ mimesis for a pig drinking water[6]

Sound shifts

In Vanuatu, some of the Santo–Malekula languages have shifted historically from labial to dental consonants via an intermediate linguolabial stage, which remains in other Santo and Malekula languages. In Nese, for example, labials have become linguolabial before nonrounded vowels; in Tolomako, this has gone further, so that *bebe 'butterfly' (/t̼et̼e/ in Tangoa, above) has become /tete/ in Tolomako, and *tama 'father' (Tangoa /tan̼a/) has become /tana/.

See also


  1. ^ The term apicolabial is older, but Ladefoged and Maddieson point out that often these sounds are not apical.
  2. ^ Pullum & Ladusaw, Phonetic symbol guide, 1996:256. They note that the apical diacritic was added to the IPA after the linguolabial diacritic, and would have made the latter unnecessary.
  3. ^ See p.270 of François, Alexandre (2002). Araki: A disappearing language of Vanuatu. Pacific Linguistics, 522. Canberra: Australian National University. ISBN 0-85883-493-6. . See also entry m̈ana in Araki-English online dictionary.
  4. ^ a b c Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996, p. 19.
  5. ^ Olson et al. 2009, p. 523.
  6. ^ a b Rosemary Beam de Azcona, Sound Symbolism. Available at


  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 
  • Maddieson, Ian. 1989. Linguo-labials. In VICAL 1: Oceanic Languages, Part II: Papers from the Fifth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics, Auckland, New Zealand, January 1988, ed. by R. Harlow & R. Hooper, 349–375. Auckland: Linguistic Society of New Zealand.
  • Olson, Kenneth S., D. William Reiman, Fernando Sabio & Filipe Alberto da Silva. 2009. The voiced linguolabial plosive in Kajoko. Chicago Linguistic Society (CLS) 45(1), 519-530.