Voiced velar approximant
IPA Number154
Entity (decimal)ɰ
Unicode (hex)U+0270
Audio sample

The voiced velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɰ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is M\.

The consonant is not present in English, but approximates to the sound of a 'g' with the throat kept open, or like making a 'w' sound without the lips touching. The voiced velar approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic counterpart of the close back unrounded vowel [ɯ]. ⟨ɰ⟩ and ⟨ɯ̯⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound.

In some languages, such as Spanish, the voiced velar approximant appears as an allophone of /ɡ/ – see below.

The symbol for the velar approximant originates from ⟨ɯ⟩, but with a vertical line. Compare ⟨u⟩ and ⟨ɥ⟩ for the labio-palatal approximant.


Features of the voiced velar approximant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Aragonese[1] caixigo [kajˈʃiɣ̞o̞] 'oak tree' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/.
Astur-Leonese Asturian [example needed] Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/.
Extremaduran [example needed]
Leonese [example needed]
Mirandese [example needed]
Catalan[2][3] aigua [ˈajɣ̞wə] 'water' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/.[2][3] See Catalan phonology
Cherokee wa-tsi [ɰad͡ʒi] 'watch' Found only in the Western dialect. Its equivalent in other dialects is [w]. Also represented by Ꮺ, Ꮻ, Ꮼ, Ꮽ, and Ꮾ
Danish Older speakers[4] talg [ˈtsʰalˀɣ̞] 'tallow' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding. Still used by some older speakers in high register, much more commonly than a fricative [ɣ].[4] Depending on the environment, it corresponds to [w] or [j] in young speakers of contemporary Standard Danish.[5] See Danish phonology
Dutch Western East Flemish[6] Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding. Corresponds to a fricative [ɣ] in other dialects.[6]
French Belgian[7] ara [aɰa] 'macaw' Intervocalic allophone of /ʀ/ for some speakers, unless /ʀ/ is realized as a liaison consonant – then, most often, it is realized as a trill [ʀ].[7] See French phonology
Galician[8] auga [ˈɑwɣ̞ɑ] 'water' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/.[8] See Galician phonology
Greek Cypriot[9] μαγαζί [maɰaˈzi] 'shop' Allophone of /ɣ/.
Guarani gotyo [ɰoˈtɨo] 'near, close to' Contrasts with [w]
Ñandewa Paulista-Paranaense[10] [adʒaˈɰa] 'I cut' Contrasts with [g].[10]
Hiw ter̄og [təɡ͡ʟɔɰ] 'peace' Phoneme realised [ɣ̞] in onsets, [ɰ] in codas. Contrasts with /w/ and with /ɡ͡ʟ/.[11]
Ibibio[12] ufok [úfʌ̟̀ɰɔ̞] [translation needed] Intervocalic allophone of /k/; may be a uvular tap [ɢ̆] instead.[12]
Icelandic saga [ˈs̺äːɣ̞ä] 'saga' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding. See Icelandic phonology
Irish naoi [n̪ˠɰiː] 'nine' Occurs only between broad consonants and front vowels. See Irish phonology
Korean 의사 / uisa [ɰisɐ] 'doctor' Occurs only before /i/. See Korean phonology
Mwotlap haghag [haɰhaɰ] 'sit' Realised [ɰ] or [ɣ̞]. Contrasts with [w].[13]
Shipibo[14] igi [i̞ɣ̞i̞] [translation needed] Continuant consonant with variable frication and unspecified rounding; allophone of /k/ in certain high-frequency morphemes.[14]
Spanish[15] pagar About this sound[päˈɣ̞äɾ] 'to pay' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/.[15] See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[16] agronom [äɣ̞ɾʊˈn̪oːm] 'agronomist' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; allophone of /ɡ/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Tagalog igriega [iːɡɾɪˈje̞ɣ̞ɐ] 'y (letter)' Approximant consonant unspecified for rounding; intervocalic allophone of /ɡ/. See Tagalog phonology
Tiwi ngaga [ˈŋaɰa] 'we (inclusive)'
Venetian góndoƚa [ˈɡoŋdoɰa] 'gondola' See Venetian language
Vietnamese Southern gà [ɣ̞a:˨˩] 'chicken' Typical realization of /ɡɣ/ or /ɣ/ in other dialects. Variant is in complementary distribution before open vowels.


Voiced pre-velar approximant
Audio sample
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Spanish[17] seguir About this sound[se̞ˈɣ̞iɾ] 'to follow' Lenited allophone of /ɡ/ before front vowels;[17] typically transcribed in IPA with ⟨ɣ⟩. See Spanish phonology
Turkish Standard prescriptive[18] ğün [ˈd̪y̠jy̠n̪] 'marriage' Either post-palatal or palatal; phonetic realization of /ɣ/ (also transcribed as /ɰ/) before front vowels.[18] See Turkish phonology

Relation with [ɡ] and [ɣ]

Some languages have a voiced velar approximant that is unspecified for rounding, and therefore cannot be considered the semivocalic equivalent of either [ɯ] or its rounded counterpart [u]. Examples of such languages are Catalan, Galician and Spanish, in which the approximant consonant (not semivowel) unspecified for rounding appears as an allophone of /ɡ/.[8]

Eugenio Martínez Celdrán describes the voiced velar approximant consonant as follows:[19]

As for the symbol [ɰ], it is quite evidently inappropriate for representing the Spanish voiced velar approximant consonant. Many authors have pointed out the fact that [ɰ] is not rounded; for example, Pullum & Ladusaw (1986:98) state that 'the sound in question can be described as a semi-vowel (glide) with the properties "high", "back", and "unrounded"'. They even establish an interesting parallelism: 'the sound can be regarded as an unrounded [w]'. It is evident, then, that [ɰ] is not an adequate symbol for Spanish. First of all, because it has never been taken into consideration that there is a diphthong in words like paga 'pay', vago 'lazy', lego 'lay', etc., and, secondly, because this sound is rounded when it precedes rounded vowels. Besides, it would be utterly wrong to transcribe the word jugo 'juice' with [ɰ] *[ˈχuɰo], because the pronunciation of that consonant between two rounded vowels is completely rounded whereas [ɰ] is not. (...) The symbol I have always proposed is [ɣ̞], the correlate to the other central approximants in Spanish, [β̞ ð̞] (Martínez Celdrán 1991, 1996:47). This coincides with Ball & Rahilly (1999:90), whose example for the three approximants is the Spanish word abogado 'lawyer' (see figure 1). Ball & Rahilly too criticise in a footnote the confusion between these symbols: 'The difference between an approximant version of the voiced velar fricative [ɣ], and the velar semi-vowel [ɰ] is that the latter requires spread lips, and must have a slightly more open articulatory channel so that it becomes [ɯ] if prolonged' (p. 189, fn. 1).

There is a parallel problem with transcribing the palatal approximant.

The symbol ⟨ɣ̞⟩ may not display properly in all browsers. In that case, ⟨ɣ˕⟩ should be substituted. In broader transcriptions,[20] the lowering diacritic may be omitted altogether, so that the symbol is rendered ⟨ɣ⟩, i.e. as if it represented the corresponding fricative.

See also


  1. ^ Mott (2007), pp. 104–105.
  2. ^ a b Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 55.
  3. ^ a b Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 204.
  4. ^ a b Grønnum (2005), p. 123.
  5. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 211–212.
  6. ^ a b Taeldeman (1979).
  7. ^ a b Demolin (2001), pp. 65, 71.
  8. ^ a b c Martínez Celdrán (2004), pp. 203–204.
  9. ^ Arvaniti (1999), p. 174.
  10. ^ a b Costa (2012), p. 78.
  11. ^ François (2010), pp. 397–400.
  12. ^ a b Urua (2004), p. 106.
  13. ^ François (2001), p. 60.
  14. ^ a b Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001), p. 282.
  15. ^ a b Martínez Celdrán (2004), pp. 202–204.
  16. ^ Engstrand (2004), p. 167.
  17. ^ a b Canellada & Madsen (1987), p. 21.
  18. ^ a b Zimmer & Organ (1999), p. 155.
  19. ^ Martínez Celdrán (2004), pp. 202–203.
  20. ^ See e.g. Carbonell & Llisterri (1992).


  • Arvaniti, Amalia (1999), "Cypriot Greek" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 29 (2): 173–178, doi:10.1017/S002510030000654X
  • Basbøll, Hans (2005), The Phonology of Danish, ISBN 0-203-97876-5
  • Carbonell, Joan F.; Llisterri, Joaquim (1992), "Catalan" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 22 (1–2): 53–56, doi:10.1017/s0025100300004618
  • Demolin, Didier (2001). "Some phonetic and phonological observations concerning /ʀ/ in Belgian French". In van de Velde, Hans; van Hout, Roeland (eds.). 'r-atics. Rapport d'Activités de l'Institut des Langues Vivantes et de Phonétique. Brussels: Etudes & Travaux. pp. 61–73. ISSN 0777-3692.
  • Engstrand, Olle (2004), Fonetikens grunder (in Swedish), Lund: Studenlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-04238-8
  • François, Alexandre (2001), Contraintes de structures et liberté dans l'organisation du discours. Une description du mwotlap, langue océanienne du Vanuatu (in French), Paris: PhD dissertation, Université Paris-IV Sorbonne, p. 1078.
  • François, Alexandre (2010), "Phonotactics and the prestopped velar lateral of Hiw: Resolving the ambiguity of a complex segment" (PDF), Phonology, 27 (3): 393–434, doi:10.1017/S0952675710000205.
  • Grønnum, Nina (2005), Fonetik og fonologi, Almen og Dansk (3rd ed.), Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, ISBN 87-500-3865-6
  • Martínez Celdrán, Eugenio (2004), "Problems in the Classification of Approximants", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (2): 201–210, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001732
  • Mott, Brian (2007), "Chistabino (Pyrenean Aragonese)" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 37 (1): 103–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002842
  • Taeldeman, Johan (1979), "Het klankpatroon van de Vlaamse dialecten. Een inventariserend overzicht", Woordenboek van de Vlaamse Dialecten
  • Urua, Eno-Abasi E. (2004), "Ibibio", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 105–109, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001550
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M.; Márquez Pinedo, Luis; Maddieson, Ian (2001), "Shipibo", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 31 (2): 281–285, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002109
  • Costa, Consuelo de Paiva Godinho (2012). "Fonologia do Nhandewa-Guarani Paulista-Paranaense". LIAMES (in Portuguese). 3 (1). doi:10.20396/liames.v3i1.1414.