Talk:Uvular consonant

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Given this:

The uvular trill [ʀ] is used in certain dialects (especially those associated with European capitals) of French, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish and Norwegian, as well as Hebrew, for the rhotic phoneme.

this sentence is bullshit:

English, along with almost all languages of Europe and South-East Asia, has no uvular consonants. Uvulars are likewise completely unknown in indigenous languages of Australia and the Pacific.

Removing. 15:02, 15 April 2007 (UTC)

The unvoiced uvular fricative is also exceedingly rare. It sounds similar to the "kh" (represented in IPA as "x") in Spanish, German, Russian, or Arabic, except that it is articulated on the uvula. It can be heard in French at the end of a word following t, c, or p, as in maître: the R is here a voiceless uvular.

You serious?? Hebrew uses an unvoiced uvular fricative, as do most dialects of Spanish, many of German and Dutch, and plenty of languages in western North America.

Please fix the article then! -- Tarquin 21:23, 6 Dec 2003 (UTC)
It's possible, I suppose, that the unvoiced uvular fricative might appear as a phone in the languages you mention. However, to my knowledge, the phoneme they all use is /x/, the unvoiced velar fricative - which is exactly what the article says. I've certainly never heard [χ] described as a phone in any variety of Spanish (and I would say I'm fairly familiar with Spanish phonetics) and in any case I can't imagine a situation where I might expect a velar /x/ to be realized as a uvular [χ]. The article's example of a voiced uvular fricative devoicing after an unvoiced stop seems much more logical. 18:29, 16 Sep 2004 (UTC)
There are kinds of Spanish where that phoneme is always pronounced [χ] and never [x]. So it doesn't make a lot of sense to call the phoneme "/x/". More importantly, articles like this are about phones, not about phonemes.
(I don't know Spanish. I don't know how standard [χ] is, or how pluricentric Standard Castilian is. I'm not sure if I've ever heard [x] in any kind of Spanish, though it probably occurs somewhere in America…)
All Hebrew I have heard (that is, on TV) has [χ] but never [x]. I think that also goes for Arabic, but I've heard very few Arabic so far…
It is easily possible that people write "/x/" out of sheer laziness when [χ] but not [x] occurs in a language, just like how it is tradition to transcribe any rhotic as "/r/" in languages that have only one rhotic, be it trill, approximant, fricative or even flap, alveolar, uvular or retroflex.
David Marjanović | | 23:35 CEST | 2006/4/6

My edit[edit]

Because it's so late I'll be brief. I'll try to elaborate tomorrow.

Several examples come from the pages of the individual sounds. For example the Mam word for "fire" comes from Voiced uvular implosive; clicking on the link to Mam language on that page did not reveal any trace of an orthography, so I left that blank. The same goes for the Inuktitut example (the vowels of which look suspicious to me).

The information on Lakhota comes mostly from here (links to audio files).

The Quechua example comes from here (link to audio file). The rest of the information on Quechua comes from the Quechua article.

I'm a native speaker of southeastern German (/ʀ/ as short, often one-contact, [ʀ] in front of vowels and [ɐ] elsewhere).

I've been to France for months, and that's the source for what I wrote about French. However, if you go here and click on the picture, you'll see a 12-minute movie with one-contact trills all over the place and fricatives in front of consonants; one guy seems to use fricatives only(*), but he doesn't get to say much. (BTW, I know a Canadian who always uses [ʀ] and never any fricative, so the previous version which said "non-Parisian French" generally prefers fricatives was quite misleading.)

The information on Spanish comes from hearing native speakers and advanced learners. I'm sure j is realized as [x] somewhere, but even though it's described as [x] all over Wikipedia, all Castilian I've heard or been told about has an unambiguous [χ] instead, like the Swiss German dialects. (In Latin America this doesn't seem to occur.) Strictly speaking that's original research, but there must be citable literature about this somewhere.

The transcription of one-contact trills with the IPA extra-short diacritic is my ad-hoc invention. Traditionally the Spanish one-contact trill (phonemically distinct from a very long trill) is transcribed as [ɾ], but this is IMHO totally misleading because the English flap is a totally different sound.

(*) Wikipedia used to be full of claims that the voiced uvular fricative were the standard rhotic in French and even German before I started changing them. I wonder if native English speakers have difficulties recognizing one-contact trills as trills and, if they are linguists, interpret them as approximants or fricatives.

Good night then.

David Marjanović | | 01:17 CEST | 2006/4/9

Hi David,
A couple problems. AFAIK, Inuit <g> is a voiced uvular fricative, though I don't know about dialectical variation. You also should not get pG clusters in Inuktitut, which makes the example even more doubtful. (The vowels, BTW, are fine. Uvulars commonly lower high vowels.)
I would change 'Standard German' to 'Austrian German'.
I wouldn't use Mishnaic Hebrew. A reconstructed pronunciation is just asking for trouble.
I'll remove your O.R. short sign on the trills. As I've said before, one-contact trills are normal, and the only time they're distinctive is when there's gemination.
And no, no one has difficulty recognizing trills. Usually people base their analyses on waveforms anyway, so it wouldn't matter if they couldn't hear them. The only problem would be if the sound itself were ambiguous, which in very possibly is in French and German. The reason the same symbol is used for the English and Spanish flaps is that no language contrasts these sounds. If you wish to do so, you can use ɾ for Spanish and D for English.

kwami 23:45, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

I have next to no idea about Inuktitut. I just copied the example from the voiced uvular plosive page (and added the [ʔ]). If you know better, please do "be bold". Thanks for explaining the vowels!
I've just found a real example here and put it in.
David Marjanović | | 21:48 CEST | 2006/4/11
I really think "Standard German" should stay. I have heard Germans use uvular or velar fricatives for <r>, but only in front of consonants (which is either a hypercorrectivism or a dialectal influence somewhere along the Rhine). I hear Germans speak on TV more or less every day.
Mishnaic Hebrew was already there; it was one of the two examples that the page had. I agree it should be changed, but I didn't notice… I'll exchange the example for "Qazaq".
Some people seem to insist that a one-contact trill must not be called "trill" but "tap" – if there aren't at least two contacts, the onomatopoi...etic description "trill" doesn't fit, it's more like a plosive. As for what it sounds like, do you have Skype? :-)
In examples like these, which are about phones rather than phonemes, a narrow phonetic transcription makes a lot more sense than a phonemic one. That's why I transcribed the /p/ (unaspirated pulmonic bilabial plosive) of Lakhota with two diacritics, and that's is why I make such contortions to avoid the ambiguous ɾ. (I don't quite dare use D; it's not recognized by the IPA.)
BTW, if I used [ɾ] in a phonetic transcription of Spanish <r>, Spanish <rr> would have to be [ɾɾɾɾɾ]. :o)
David Marjanović | | 00:30 CEST | 2006/4/11
Just changed Mishnaic Hebrew to Kazakh. Problem: I have no idea where the stress goes, and the Kazakh language article doesn't tell.
David Marjanović | | 00:55 CEST | 2006/4/11
Got rid of the Spanish problem now by choosing another word. This has the additional benefit of having j in front of a back vowel, the position where actual [χ] is most common according to Talk:Spanish_phonology#Confusion_over_rhotic_and_nasal_archiphonemes.2C_and_about_the_sound_of_Castilian_.22ch.22.
David Marjanović | | 18:26 CEST | 2006/5/14


The article starts like this:

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.

The term uvular is used only from lack of a better term. The phonemes are actually made against the soft palate, no? Way in the back, yes? So a better way to do that sentence might be:

Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the very back of the soft palate, where the uvula hangs from; further back in the mouth than velar consonants.

Or something like that. Because there's no way you can make sound off that little lobe of flesh in the back of your mouth. This would be a very good change.


French and German speakers would find this a very strange definition: the uvular trill /R/ most certainly involves the uvula... how can the back of the velum possibly produce a trill? JREL (talk) 05:14, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
You've just chosen the only uvular consonant where a big fat uvula might actually help...the rest of the time it's probably pretty muscles, no hardness, just flopping around during "uvular" plosives and fricatives, I'm sure...
I'm not arguing that the term uvular should be replaced...just thought I should mention that...I just feel that the term was probably invented to mean "further back than velar" and not "with the hanging lobe"...
It's only a feeling...meditate on it...
I bet the uvula gives uvular fricatives their distinctive sound. I also don't see why the uvula can't participate in the uvular stops. However, you're right that [ʀ] is different from the others: the others are made with the dorsum, the part of the tongue that's used to make velar consonants, while [ʀ] is not. David Marjanović 21:24, 1 May 2007 (UTC)

improvement to the en.wikipedia version of this article?[edit]

A direct link to a wave file might be beneficial in the beginning of this article for English speakers who have no inherent capability of understanding what this might sound like because of the limitations of their chosen written language. I am curious about these, specifically because of what part of the tongue they are made with, but because I suffer this language limitation myself I am unable to make a recommendation as to which link would be the best..

I second that wholeheartedly. All the phonetics articles would be greatly improved by .ogg files of native speakers making the sounds described in the articles. They would also be improved by jargon-free descriptions of the precise articulatory gestures -- the movements of the tongue. — Solo Owl (talk) 12:04, 14 January 2011 (UTC)
The individual pages (voiceless uvular plosive) have pronunciations in the opening table, except a few of the truly exotic sounds. A quick description of how you would at least get close to a uvular would simply be to take the 'k' sound in English and make it farther back in the mouth. As for jargon-free pronunciation guides, I'm not sure Wikipedia is the place for them, but between the sampled pronunciations, the table that lists if a sound is found in English, place of articulation and manner of articulation (especially the individual pages of those two), they provide pretty much all the information you need to pronounce them. And if just can't figure one out, ask at the language reference desk. Vowels... well, they're tougher. Lsfreak (talk) 00:32, 20 January 2011 (UTC)


Curiosity always strike me. Can you pronounce uvular consonants when you remove your uvula? Komitsuki (talk) 09:38, 10 February 2012 (UTC)

This type of question might be a bit more appropriate for the Language_reference_desk (if nothing else, you'll get an answer faster). Except for the uvular trill, none of the uvular consonants actually use the uvula as a necessary part of sound production. My gut feeling, though, is that someone who spoke a language that had both velar and uvular fricatives could potentially confuse people as to which they were using, as (from the perspective of someone whose native language has neither) the wobble the uvula makes in rapid speech does seem to give the latter a very distinctive sound compared to the former. Lsfreak (talk) 20:41, 30 May 2012 (UTC)


French (20th century Paris accent, e.g. by Édith Piaf)

A distinctive feature of Piaf's pronunciation (at least in singing) is that she did not use the standard uvular trill; she sang with an alveolar trill instead. I'll remove her. —Tamfang (talk) 19:28, 10 April 2015 (UTC)