Voiced labiodental nasal
IPA Number115
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɱ
Unicode (hex)U+0271
Braille⠖ (braille pattern dots-235)⠍ (braille pattern dots-134)

The voiced labiodental nasal is a type of consonantal sound. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɱ⟩. The IPA symbol is a lowercase letter m with a leftward hook protruding from the lower right of the letter. Occasionally it is instead transcribed as an m with a dental diacritic: ⟨⟩ (for example in extIPA, where the two transcriptions are presented as variants).[1]

The labiodental pronunciation of [ɱ] is very similar to that of the bilabial nasal [m], but instead of the lips touching each other, the lower lip touches the upper teeth. The position of the lips and teeth is generally the same as for the production of the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], though air escapes between the lip and the teeth in the case of the fricatives.

Although commonly appearing in languages, it is overwhelmingly an allophone restricted to a position before the labiodental consonants [f] and [v]. A phonemic /ɱ/ has only been reported for the Kukuya language, which contrasts it with /m, mpf, mbv/ and is "accompanied by strong protrusion of both lips". It is [ɱʷ] before /a/ and [ɱ] before /i/ and /e/, perhaps because labialization is constrained by the spread front vowels; it does not occur before the back (rounded) vowels /o/ and /u/.[2]

It is doubted by some scholars that true closure can be made by a labiodental gesture because of gaps between the incisors, which for many speakers would allow air to flow during the occlusion.[3] This is particularly pertinent considering that one of the Kukuya words with this consonant, /ɱáá/, means a 'gap between filed incisors,'[4] a practice of the local people. The /ɱ/ might therefore be better characterized as a labiodental nasal approximant than as a nasal occlusive.

Nonetheless, [ɱ] is extremely common around the world phonetically, as it is the universal allophone of /m/ and a very common allophone of /n/ before the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], as for example in English comfort and circumvent, and, for many people, infinitive and invent. In the Angami language, [ɱ] occurs as an allophone of /m/ before /ə/. In Drubea, [ɱ] is reported as an allophone of /v/ before nasal vowels.[5]

A proposal to retire the letter ⟨ɱ⟩ was made in the run-up to the Kiel Convention of 1989, with the labiodental nasal to be transcribed solely by ⟨⟩, but the proposal was defeated in committee.[6][7]


Features of the voiced labiodental nasal:


Phonemic /ɱ/ is extremely rare. As an allophone of nasal consonants before [f] or [v], however, [ɱ] is very common.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arabic Hejazi قُرُنْفُل gurunful [gʊrʊɱfʊl] 'clove' See Hejazi Arabic phonology
Catalan limfa [ˈlĩɱfɐ] 'lymph' See Catalan phonology
Czech tramvaj [ˈtraɱvaj] 'tram' See Czech phonology
Danish symfoni [syɱfoˈniˀ] 'symphony' See Danish phonology
Dutch[8][9] omvallen [ˈʔɔɱvɑlə(n)] 'to fall over' See Dutch phonology
English symphony [ˈsɪɱfəni] 'symphony' Allophone of /m/ before /f/ and /v/ See English phonology.
Finnish kamferi [ˈkɑɱfe̞ri] 'camphor' See Finnish phonology
German nf [fʏɱf] 'five' See German phonology
Greek[10] έμβρυο émvryo [ˈe̞ɱvrio̞] 'embryo' Learned or careful pronunciation. See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew סימפוניה simfonya [siɱˈfonja] 'symphony' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hungarian hamvad [ˈhɒɱvɒd] 'smoulder' See Hungarian phonology
Italian[11] invece [iɱˈveːt͡ʃe] 'instead' See Italian phonology
Kukuya[12] [ɱíì] 'eyes' Phonemic, distinguishes /m/ and /ɱ/.
Macedonian трамвај tramvaj [traɱˈvaj] 'tram' See Macedonian phonology
Norwegian komfyr [kɔɱˈfyːɾ] 'stove' See Norwegian phonology
Polish symfonia [sɘ̟ɱˈfɔɲ̟ä] 'symphony' See Polish phonology
Romanian învăța [ɨɱvəˈt͡sä] 'to learn' See Romanian phonology
Russian амфора amfora ['aɱfərə] 'amphora' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[13] трамвај / tramvaj [trǎɱʋäj] 'tram' Allophone of /m/ and /n/ before /f/ and /ʋ/.[13] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene[14] simfonija [siɱfoˈníːjà] 'symphony' Allophone of /m/ and /n/ before /f/ and /ʋ/.[14]
Spanish[15] influir [iɱfluˈiɾ] 'to have influence' See Spanish phonology
Swedish framför [ˈfɾâɱˌfɶːɾ] 'in front of', 'performs' See Swedish phonology
West Frisian ûnwis [uːɱ'ʋɪs] 'unsure' Allophone of /n/ before labiodental sounds.


戴 (帽子) [ɱoː⁶] 'wear' Was briefly phonemic before merging with /m/.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Duckworth et al. (1990) Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet for the transcription of atypical speech. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 4: 4: 276.
  2. ^ Paulian (1975:57)
  3. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:18)
  4. ^ Paulian (1975:40)
  5. ^ Hajek, John (2009). "Labiodental ɱ in Drubea". Oceanic Linguistics. 48 (2): 484–487. doi:10.1353/ol.0.0048.
  6. ^ Heselwood (2013) Phonetic transcription in theory and practice
  7. ^ JIPA 18(2) p.85.
  8. ^ Kooij & Van Oostendorp (2003:9)
  9. ^ Verhoeven (2005:243)
  10. ^ Newton (1972:10)
  11. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:118)
  12. ^ Paulian (1975:41)
  13. ^ a b Landau et al. (1999:67)
  14. ^ a b Šuštaršič, Komar & Petek (1999:136)
  15. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:258)
  16. ^ Norquest (2007:107)


  • Kooij, Jan; Van Oostendorp, Marc (2003), Fonologie: uitnodiging tot de klankleer van het Nederlands, Amsterdam University Press, ISBN 9789053566220
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), Sounds of the World's Languages, Blackwells
  • Landau, Ernestina; Lončarić, Mijo; Horga, Damir; Škarić, Ivo (1999), "Croatian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 66–69, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
  • Newton, Brian (1972), The generative Interpretation of Dialect: A Study of Modern Greek Phonology, Cambridge Studies in Linguistics, vol. 8, Cambridge University Press
  • Paulian, Christiane (1975), Le Kukuya Langue Teke du Congo: phonologie, classes nominales, Peeters Publishers
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 117–121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
  • Šuštaršič, Rastislav; Komar, Smiljana; Petek, Bojan (1999), "Slovene", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 135–139, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874, ISBN 0-521-65236-7, S2CID 249404451
  • Verhoeven, Jo (2005), "Belgian Standard Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 243–247, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002173
  • Norquest, Peter K. (2007). A phonological reconstruction of Proto-Hlai (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Arizona. hdl:10150/194203. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-07-14.