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Alveolar consonant

Consonants articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge

Alveolar /ælˈvələr/ consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli (the sockets) of the upper teeth. Alveolar consonants may be articulated with the tip of the tongue (the apical consonants), as in English, or with the flat of the tongue just above the tip (the "blade" of the tongue; called laminal consonants), as in French and Spanish.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) does not have separate symbols for the alveolar consonants. Rather, the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that are not palatalized like English palato-alveolar sh, or retroflex. To disambiguate, the bridge ([s̪, t̪, n̪, l̪], etc.) may be used for a dental consonant, or the under-bar ([s̠, t̠, n̠, l̠], etc.) may be used for the postalveolars. [s̪] differs from dental [θ] in that the former is a sibilant and the latter is not. [s̠] differs from postalveolar [ʃ] in being unpalatalized.

The bare letters [s, t, n, l], etc. cannot be assumed to specifically represent alveolars. The language may not make such distinctions, such that two or more coronal places of articulation are found allophonically, or the transcription may simply be too broad to distinguish dental from alveolar. If it is necessary to specify a consonant as alveolar, a diacritic from the Extended IPA may be used: [s͇, t͇, n͇, l͇], etc., though that could also mean extra-retracted. The letters ⟨s, t, n, l⟩ are frequently called 'alveolar', and the language examples below are all alveolar sounds.

(The Extended IPA diacritic was devised for speech pathology and is frequently used to mean "alveolarized", as in the labioalveolar sounds [p͇, b͇, m͇, f͇, v͇], where the lower lip contacts the alveolar ridge.)


Alveolar consonants are transcribed in the IPA as follows:

LanguageOrthographyIPAMeaning in English
voiceless alveolar nasalBurmeseနှာ[n̥à]'nose'
Xsampa-n.pngvoiced alveolar nasalEnglishrun[ɹʌn]
Xsampa-t.pngvoiceless alveolar plosiveEnglishstop[stɒp]
Xsampa-d.pngvoiced alveolar plosiveEnglishdebt[dɛt]
Xsampa-s.pngvoiceless alveolar fricativeEnglishsuit[suːt]
Xsampa-z.pngvoiced alveolar fricativeEnglishzoo[zuː]
Xsampa-ts.pngvoiceless alveolar affricateEnglishpizza[pit͡sə]
Xsampa-dz.pngvoiced alveolar affricateItalianzainod͡zaino]backpack
Xsampa-K2.pngvoiceless alveolar lateral fricativeWelshllwyd[ɬʊɪd]grey
Xsampa-Kslash.pngvoiced alveolar lateral fricativeZuludlalaɮálà]to play
t͡ɬvoiceless alveolar lateral affricateTsezэлIни[ˈʔe̞t͡ɬni]winter
d͡ɮvoiced alveolar lateral affricatePa Na[d͡ɮau˩˧]'deep'
Xsampa-rslash2.pngalveolar approximantEnglishred[ɹɛd]
Xsampa-l.pngalveolar lateral approximantEnglishloop[lup]
Xsampa-l eor5.pngvelarized alveolar lateral approximantEnglishmilk[mɪɫk]
Xsampa-4.pngalveolar flapEnglishbetter[bɛɾɚ]
Xsampa-lslash.pngalveolar lateral flapVenda[vuɺa]to open
Xsampa-r.pngalveolar trillSpanishperro[pero]dog
IPA alveolar ejective.pngalveolar ejectiveGeorgian[ia]tulip
t͡sʼalveolar ejective affricateNuxálkxłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷ[xɬpʼχʷɬtʰɬpʰɬːskʷʰt͡sʼ]'he had had in his possession a bunchberry plant'
IPA alveolar ejective fricative.pngalveolar ejective fricativeAmharic[ɛɡa]
t͡ɬʼalveolar lateral ejective affricateNavajotłʼóoʼdi[t͡ɬʼóːʔtɪ̀]'(at) the outside'
Alveolar lateral ejective fricative2.PNGalveolar lateral ejective fricativeAdygheплӀы[pɬ’ə]
Xsampa-d lessthan.pngvoiced alveolar implosiveVietnameseđã[ɗɐː]Past tense indicator
ƭvoiceless alveolar implosiveSerer???
Xsampa-exclamationslash.pngapical alveolar click release (many distinct consonants)Nama!oas[ᵑ̊ǃˀoas]hollow
Xsampa-doublebarslash.pngalveolar lateral click release (many distinct consonants)Namaǁî[ᵑ̊ǁˀĩː]discussed

Lack of alveolars

The alveolar or dental consonants [t] and [n] are, along with [k], the most common consonants in human languages. Nonetheless, there are a few languages that lack them. A few languages on Bougainville Island and around Puget Sound, such as Makah, lack nasals and therefore [n], but have [t]. Colloquial Samoan, however, lacks both [t] and [n], but it has a lateral alveolar approximant /l/. (Samoan words written with t and n are pronounced with [k] and [ŋ] in colloquial speech.) In Standard Hawaiian, [t] is an allophone of /k/, but /l/ and /n/ exist.

Labioalveolar consonants

In labioalveolars, the lower lip contacts the alveolar ridge. Such sounds are typically the result of a severe overbite. In the Extensions to the IPA for disordered speech, they are transcribed with the alveolar diacritic on labial letters: ⟨m͇ p͇ b͇ f͇ v͇⟩.

Other topics

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Alveolar consonant, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors).

Date of last edit: 2021-01-28T19:33:04.000Z