Glottal stop
IPA Number113
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ʔ
Unicode (hex)U+0294
Braille⠆ (braille pattern dots-23)

The glottal stop or glottal plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages, produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract or, more precisely, the glottis. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ.

As a result of the obstruction of the airflow in the glottis, the glottal vibration either stops or becomes irregular with a low rate and sudden drop in intensity.[1]


Features of the glottal stop:[citation needed]


See also: Glottal stop (letter)

Road sign in British Columbia showing the use of the digit ⟨7⟩ to represent /ʔ/ in Squamish.

In the traditional romanization of many languages, such as Arabic, the glottal stop is transcribed with the apostrophe ⟨ʼ⟩ or the symbol ⟨ʾ⟩, which is the source of the IPA character ʔ. In many Polynesian languages that use the Latin alphabet, however, the glottal stop is written with a rotated apostrophe, ⟨ʻ⟩ (called ʻokina in Hawaiian and Samoan), which is commonly used to transcribe the Arabic ayin as well (also ⟨ʽ⟩) and is the source of the IPA character for the voiced pharyngeal fricative ʕ. In Malay the glottal stop is represented by the letter ⟨k⟩ (at the end of words), in Võro and Maltese by ⟨q⟩. Another way of writing the glottal stop is the saltillo ⟨Ꞌ ꞌ⟩, used in languages such as Tlapanec and Rapa Nui.

Other scripts also have letters used for representing the glottal stop, such as the Hebrew letter aleph ⟨א⟩ and the Cyrillic letter palochka ⟨Ӏ⟩, used in several Caucasian languages. The Arabic script uses hamza ⟨ء⟩, which can appear both as a diacritic and as an independent letter (though not part of the alphabet). In Tundra Nenets, it is represented by the letters apostrophe ⟨ʼ⟩ and double apostrophe ⟨ˮ⟩. In Japanese, glottal stops occur at the end of interjections of surprise or anger and are represented by the character .

In the graphic representation of most Philippine languages, the glottal stop has no consistent symbolization. In most cases, however, a word that begins with a vowel-letter (e.g. Tagalog aso, "dog") is always pronounced with an unrepresented glottal stop before that vowel (as in Modern German and Hausa). Some orthographies use a hyphen instead of the reverse apostrophe if the glottal stop occurs in the middle of the word (e.g. Tagalog pag-ibig, "love"; or Visayan gabi-i, "night"). If it occurs in the end of a word, the last vowel can be written with a circumflex accent (known as the pakupyâ) if both a stress and a glottal stop occur in the final vowel (e.g. basâ, "wet") or a grave accent (known as the paiwà) if the glottal stop occurs at the final vowel, but the stress occurs at the penultimate syllable (e.g. batà, "child").[3][4][5]

Some Canadian indigenous languages, especially some of the Salishan languages, have adopted the IPA letter ⟨ʔ⟩ into their orthographies. In some of them, it occurs as a casing pair, ⟨Ɂ⟩ and ⟨ɂ⟩.[6] The digit ⟨7⟩ or a question mark is sometimes substituted for ⟨ʔ⟩, and is preferred in languages such as Squamish. SENĆOŦEN – whose alphabet is mostly unique from other Salish languages – contrastly uses the comma ⟨,⟩ to represent the glottal stop, though it is optional.

In 2015, two women in the Northwest Territories challenged the territorial government over its refusal to permit them to use the letter ⟨ʔ⟩ in their daughters' names: Sahaiʔa, a Chipewyan name, and Sakaeʔah, a Slavey name (the two names are actually cognates). The territory argued that territorial and federal identity documents were unable to accommodate the character. The women registered the names with hyphens instead of the ⟨ʔ⟩, while continuing to challenge the policy.[7]

In the Crow language, the glottal stop is written as a question mark ⟨?⟩. The only instance of the glottal stop in Crow is as a question marker morpheme at the end of a sentence.[8]

Use of the glottal stop is a distinct characteristic of the Southern Mainland Argyll dialects of Scottish Gaelic. In such a dialect, the standard Gaelic phrase Tha Gàidhlig agam ("I speak Gaelic"), would be rendered Tha Gàidhlig a'am.[citation needed]

In English

Replacement of /t/

In English, the glottal stop occurs as an open juncture (for example, between the vowel sounds in uh-oh!,[9]) and allophonically in t-glottalization. In British English, the glottal stop is most familiar in the Cockney pronunciation of "butter" as "bu'er". Geordie English often uses glottal stops for t, k, and p, and has a unique form of glottalization. Additionally, there is the glottal stop as a null onset for English; in other words, it is the non-phonemic glottal stop occurring before isolated or initial vowels.

Often a glottal stop happens at the beginning of vowel phonation after a silence.[1]

Although this segment is not a phoneme in English, it occurs phonetically in nearly all dialects of English, as an allophone of /t/ in the syllable coda. Speakers of Cockney, Scottish English and several other British dialects also pronounce an intervocalic /t/ between vowels as in city. In Received Pronunciation, a glottal stop is inserted before a tautosyllabic voiceless stop: stoʼp, thaʼt, knoʼck, waʼtch, also leaʼp, soaʼk, helʼp, pinʼch.[10][11]

In American English, a "t" is usually not aspirated in syllables ending either in a vowel + "t", such as "cat" or "outside"; or in a "t" + unstressed vowel + "n", such as "mountain" or "Manhattan". This is referred to as a "held t" as the airflow is stopped by tongue at the ridge behind the teeth. However, there is a trend of younger speakers in the Mid-Atlantic states to replace the "held t" with a glottal stop, so that "Manhattan" sounds like "Man-haʔ-in" or "Clinton" like "Cli(n)ʔ-in", where "ʔ" is the glottal stop. This may have crossed over from African American Vernacular English, particularly that of New York City.[12][13]

Before initial vowels

"hard attack" redirects here. For other uses, see Hard Attack.

Most English speakers today often use a glottal stop before the initial vowel of words beginning with a vowel, particularly at the beginning of sentences or phrases or when a word is emphasized. This is also known as "hard attack".[14] Traditionally in Received Pronunciation, "hard attack" was seen as a way to emphasize a word. Today, in British, American and other varieties of English, it is increasingly used not only to emphasize but also simply to separate two words, especially when the first word ends in a glottal stop.[clarification needed][15][14][16]

Occurrence in other languages

In many languages that do not allow a sequence of vowels, such as Persian, the glottal stop may be used epenthetically to prevent such a hiatus. There are intricate interactions between falling tone and the glottal stop in the histories of such languages as Danish (see stød), Cantonese and Thai.[citation needed]

In many languages, the unstressed intervocalic allophone of the glottal stop is a creaky-voiced glottal approximant. It is known to be contrastive in only one language, Gimi, in which it is the voiced equivalent of the stop.[citation needed]

The table below demonstrates how widely the sound of glottal stop is found among the world's spoken languages:

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz аи/ai [ʔaj] 'no' See Abkhaz phonology.
Adyghe ӏэ/'ė [ʔa] 'arm/hand'
Arabic Modern Standard[17] أغاني/ʿaġani [ʔaˈɣaːniː] 'songs' See Arabic phonology, Hamza.
Levantine and Egyptian[18] شقة/ša''a [ˈʃæʔʔæ] 'apartment' Levantine and Egyptian dialects.[18] Corresponds to /q/ or /g/ in other dialects.
Fasi and Tlemcenian[19] قال/'al [ˈʔaːl] 'he said' Fasi and Tlemcenian dialects. Corresponds to /q/ or /g/ in other dialects.
Azeri ər [ʔær] 'husband'
Bantawa चा:वा [t͡saʔwa] 'drinking water'
Bikol bàgo [ˈbaːʔɡo] 'new'
Bulgarian ъ-ъ/ŭ-ŭ [ˈʔɤʔɤ] 'nope'
Burmese မြစ်များ/mrac mya: [mjiʔ mjá] 'rivers'
Cebuano tubò [ˈtuboʔ] 'to grow'
Chamorro haluʼu [həluʔu] 'shark'
Chinese Cantonese /oi3 [ʔɔːi˧] 'love' See Cantonese phonology.
Wu 一级了/yi ji le [ʔiɪʔ.tɕiɪʔ.ʔləʔ] 'superb'
Hokkien /ha̍h [hɐʔ˥] 'to suit'
Cook Islands Māori taʻi [taʔi] 'one'
Czech používat [poʔuʒiːvat] 'to use' See Czech phonology.
Dahalo maʼa [maʔa] 'water' see Dahalo phonology
Danish hånd [ˈhʌ̹nʔ] 'hand' One of the possible realizations of stød. Depending on the dialect and style of speech, it can be instead realized as laryngealisation of the preceding sound. See Danish phonology.
Dutch[20] beamen [bəʔˈaːmə(n)] 'to confirm' See Dutch phonology.
English Multiple dialects I [ʔaɪ ʔæm] (emphatic "am")) or [ʔaɪ æm] 'I' Glottal stop before initial vowel at the start of a phrase. Elsewhere, optionally, to emphasize a word or separate it from the previous one.[15][14]
RP uh-oh [ˈɐʔəʊ] 'uh-oh'
American [ˈʌʔoʊ]
Australian cat [kʰæʔ(t)] 'cat' Allophone of /t/, /k/ or /p/. See glottalization, English phonology, and definite article reduction.
Estuary [kʰæʔ]
Cockney[21] [kʰɛ̝ʔ]
Scottish [kʰäʔ]
Some Northern England the [ʔ] 'the'
Geordie thank you 'thank you'
Geordie people 'people'
RP[22] and GA button [ˈbɐʔn̩] 'button'
Finnish sadeaamu [ˈsɑdeʔˌɑ:mu] 'rainy morning' See Finnish phonology.[23]
German Northern Beamter [bəˈʔamtɐ] 'civil servant' Generally all vowel onsets. See Standard German phonology.
Guaraní avañeʼ [ãʋ̃ãɲẽˈʔẽ] 'Guaraní' Occurs only between vowels.
Hawaiian[24] ʻeleʻele [ˈʔɛlɛˈʔɛlɛ] 'black' See Hawaiian phonology.
Hebrew מַאֲמָר/ma'amar [maʔămaʁ] 'article' Often elided in casual speech. See Modern Hebrew phonology.
Icelandic en [ʔɛn] 'but' Only used according to emphasis, never occurring in minimal pairs.
Iloko nalab-ay [nalabˈʔaj] 'bland tasting' Hyphen when occurring within the word.
Indonesian bakso [ˌbäʔˈso] 'meatball' Allophone of /k/ or /ɡ/ in the syllable coda.
Ingush кхоъ / qoʼ [qoʔ] 'three'
Japanese Kagoshima /kuQ/ [kuʔ] 'neck'
Javanese[25] ꦲꦤꦏ꧀ [änäʔ] 'child' Allophone of /k/ in morpheme-final position.
Jedek[26] [wɛ̃ʔ] 'left side'
Kabardian ӏэ/'ė [ʔa] 'arm/hand'
Kagayanen[27] saag [saˈʔaɡ] 'floor'
Khasi lyoh [lʔɔːʔ] 'cloud'
Khmer សំអាត / sâm''at [sɑmʔɑːt] 'to clean' See Khmer phonology
Korean /il [ʔil] 'one' In free variation with no glottal stop. Occurs only in initial position of a word.
Malay Standard tidak [ˈtidäʔ] 'no' Allophone of final /k/ in the syllable coda, pronounced before consonants and at end of the a word. In other positions, /ʔ/ has phonemic status only in loanwords from Arabic. See Malay phonology
Kelantan-Pattani ikat [ˌiˈkaʔ] 'to tie' Allophone of final /p, t, k/ in the syllable coda. Pronounced before consonants and at the end of a word. See Kelantan-Pattani Malay and Terengganu Malay
Maltese qattus [ˈʔattus] 'cat'
Māori Taranaki, Whanganui wahine [waʔinɛ] 'woman'
Minangkabau waʼang [wäʔäŋ] 'you' Sometimes written without an apostrophe.
Mutsun tawkaʼli [tawkaʔli] 'black gooseberry' Ribes divaricatum
Mingrelian ჸოროფა/?oropha [ʔɔrɔpʰɑ] 'love'
Nahuatl tahtli [taʔtɬi] 'father' Often left unwritten.
Nez Perce yáakaʔ [ˈjaːkaʔ] 'black bear'
Nheengatu[28] ai [aˈʔi] 'sloth' Transcription (or absence thereof) varies.
Okinawan /utu [ʔutu] 'sound'
Persian معنی/ma'ni [maʔni] 'meaning' See Persian phonology.
Polish era [ʔɛra] 'era' Most often occurs as an anlaut of an initial vowel (Ala ‒> [Ɂala]). See Polish phonology#Glottal stop.
Pirahã baíxi [ˈmàí̯ʔì] 'parent'
Portuguese[29] Vernacular Brazilian ê-ê[30] [ˌʔe̞ˈʔeː] 'yeah right'[31] Marginal sound. Does not occur after or before a consonant. In Brazilian casual speech, there is at least one [ʔ]vowel lengthpitch accent minimal pair (triply unusual, the ideophones short ih vs. long ih). See Portuguese phonology.
Some speakers à aula [ˈa ˈʔawlɐ] 'to the class'
Rotuman[32] ʻusu [ʔusu] 'to box'
Samoan maʻi [maʔi] 'sickness/illness'
Sardinian[33] Some dialects of Barbagia unu pacu [ˈuːnu paʔu] 'a little' Intervocalic allophone of /n, k, l/.
Some dialects of Sarrabus sa luna [sa ʔuʔa] 'the moon'
Serbo-Croatian[34] i onda [iː ʔô̞n̪d̪a̠] 'and then' Optionally inserted between vowels across word boundaries.[34] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Seri he [ʔɛ] 'I'
Somali baʼ [baʔ] 'calamity' though /ʔ/ occurs before all vowels, it is only written medially and finally.[35] See Somali phonology
Spanish Nicaraguan[36] s alto [ˈma ˈʔal̻t̻o̞] 'higher' Marginal sound or allophone of /s/ between vowels in different words. Does not occur after or before a consonant. See Spanish phonology.
Yucateco[37] cuatro años [ˈkwatɾo̞ ˈʔãɲo̞s] 'four years'
Squamish Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim [sqʷχʷoʔməʃ snit͡ʃim] 'Squamish language'
Tagalog aaâ [ʔɐʔɐˈʔaʔ] 'to poo' (fut.) See Tagalog phonology.
Tahitian puaʻa [puaʔa] 'pig'
Thai /'ā [ʔaː] 'uncle/aunt' (father's younger sibling)
Tongan tuʻu [tuʔu] 'stand'
Tundra Nenets выʼ/vy' [wɨʔ] 'tundra'
Vietnamese[38] oi [ʔɔj˧] 'sultry' In free variation with no glottal stop. See Vietnamese phonology.
Võro piniq [ˈpinʲiʔ] 'dogs' "q" is Võro plural marker (maa, kala, "land", "fish"; maaq, kalaq, "lands", "fishes").
Wagiman jamh [t̠ʲʌmʔ] 'to eat' (perf.)
Welayta 7írTi [ʔirʈa] 'wet'
Wallisian maʻuli [maʔuli] 'life'

See also


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  31. ^ It may be used mostly as a general call of attention for disapproval, disagreement or inconsistency, but also serves as a synonym of the multiuse expression "eu, hein!". (in Portuguese) How to say 'eu, hein' in English – Adir Ferreira Idiomas Archived 2013-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
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