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, but 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, in Umotína (a recently extinct Bororoan language of Brazil), and as paralinguistic sounds elsewhere. They are also relatively common in disordered speech, and the diacritic is specifically provided for in the extensions to the IPA.

Linguolabial consonants are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by adding the "seagull"[2] diacritic, U+033C ◌̼ COMBINING SEAGULL BELOW, to the corresponding alveolar consonant, or with the apical diacritic, U+033A ◌̺ COMBINING INVERTED BRIDGE BELOW, on the corresponding bilabial consonant.[3]


Sagittal section of linguolabial stop
Sagittal section of linguolabial stop

Linguolabials are produced by constricting the airflow between the tongue and the upper lip. They are attested in a number of manners of articulation including stops, nasals, and fricatives, and can be produced with the tip of the tongue (apical), blade of the tongue (laminal), or the bottom of the tongue (sublaminal).[4][5] Acoustically they are more similar to alveolars than bilabials. Linguolabials can be distinguished from bilabials and alveolars acoustically by formant transitions and nasal resonances.[6]

List of consonants

(two transcriptions)
Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
linguolabial nasal Araki m̈ana [n̼ana] "laugh"[7]
voiceless linguolabial plosive Tangoa p̈ep̈e [t̼et̼e] "butterfly"[8]
voiced linguolabial plosive Kajoko dialect of Bijago [nɔ̀-d̼ɔ́ːɡ] "stone"[9]
n̼d̼ m̺b̺ prenasalized voiced linguolabial plosive Vao [nan̼d̼ak] "bow"[8]
θ̼ ɸ̺ voiceless linguolabial fricative Big Nambas [ˈinɛθ̼] "he is asthmatic"
ð̼ β̺ voiced linguolabial fricative Tangoa v̈atu [ð̼atu] "stone"[8]
linguolabial lateral approximant (common in disordered speech)
ɬ̼ voiceless linguolabial lateral fricative (in disordered speech)
ɮ̼ voiced linguolabial lateral fricative (in disordered speech)
ʙ̺ linguolabial trill
(uses lower lip)
Coatlán Zapotec r̼ʔ mimesis for a child's flatulence[10]
(blowing a raspberry)
ǀ̼ or ʇ̼ ʘ̺ linguolabial click release (multiple consonants) Coatlán Zapotec kǀ̼ mimesis for eating soup or a pig drinking water[10]

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 (POc *bebe >) p̈ep̈e 'butterfly' (/t̼et̼e/ in Tangoa) later became /tete/ in Tolomako; likewise, (POc *tama >) tam̈a 'father' (Tangoa /tan̼a/) became /tana/.

See also


  1. ^ The term apicolabial is older, but Ladefoged and Maddieson point out that often these sounds are not apical.
  2. ^ Olson et al. 2009, p. 521.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Everett 1982.
  5. ^ Maddieson 1988, p. 350.
  6. ^ Maddieson 1988, pp. 364–367.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ a b c Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996, p. 19.
  9. ^ Olson et al. 2009, p. 523.
  10. ^ a b Rosemary Beam de Azcona, Sound Symbolism. Available at "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-23. Retrieved 2008-11-24.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)