Dental consonant: Wikis


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In linguistics, a dental consonant or dental is a consonant that is articulated with the tongue against the upper teeth, such as /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/ in some languages. Dentals are primarily distinguished from sounds in which contact is made with the tongue and the gum ridge, as in English (see Alveolar consonant), due to the acoustic similarity of the sounds and the fact that in the Roman alphabet they are generally written using the same symbols (t, d, n, and so on).


Dentals cross-linguistically

For many languages, such as Albanian or Russian, velarization is generally associated with more dental articulations of coronal consonants so that velarized consonants (such as Albanian /ɫ/) tend to be dental or denti-alveolar while non-velarized consonants tend to be retracted to an alveolar position.[1]

Sanskrit, Hindi and all other Indic languages have an entire set of dental plosives which occur phonemically as voiced and voiceless, and with or without aspiration. The nasal stop /n/ also exists in these languages, but is quite alveolar and apical in articulation. To the Indian speaker, the alveolar /t/ and /d/ of English sound more like the corresponding retroflex consonants of his own language than like the dentals.

Spanish /t/ and /d/ are laminal denti-alveolar[2] while /l/ and /n/ are prototypically alveolar but assimilate to the place of articulation of a following consonant. Likewise, Italian /t/, /d/, /t͡s/, /d͡z/ are denti-alveolar ([t̪], [d̪], [t̪͡s̪], and [d̪͡z̪] respectively) and /l/ and /n/ become denti-alveolar before a following dental consonant.[3]

Although denti-alveolar consonants are often described as dental, it is the rear-most point of contact that is most relevant, for this is what defines the maximum acoustic space of resonance and will give a consonant its characteristic sound.[4] In the case of French, the rear-most contact is alveolar or sometimes slightly pre-alveolar.

Dental consonants in the world's languages

The dental/denti-alveolar consonants as transcribed by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
n̪ dental nasal Spanish onda d̪a] wave
t̪ voiceless dental plosive Spanish toro [oɾo] bull
d̪ voiced dental plosive Spanish donde [õn̪e] where
voiceless dental sibilant fricative Polish kosa [kɔa] scythe
voiced dental sibilant fricative Polish koza [kɔa] goat
θ voiceless dental nonsibilant fricative
(also often called "interdental")
English thing [θɪŋ] thing
ð voiced dental nonsibilant fricative
(also often called "interdental")
English this [ðɪs] this
ð̞ dental approximant Spanish codo [koð̞o] elbow
l̪ dental lateral approximant Spanish alto [at̪o] tall
ɾ̪ dental flap Spanish pero [peɾ̪o] but
r̪ dental trill Marshallese Ebadon [ebɑon̪] Ebadon
t̪ʼ dental ejective
ɗ̪ voiced dental implosive
ǀ dental click release Xhosa ukúcola [ukʼúkǀola] to grind fine

See also


  1. ^ Recasens & Espinosa (2005:4)
  2. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:257)
  3. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:117)
  4. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Ian Maddieson (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.  


  • Ladefoged, Peter; Ian Maddieson (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.  
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255–259  
  • Recasens, Daniel; Espinosa, Aina (2005), "Articulatory, positional and coarticulatory characteristics for clear /l/ and dark /l/: evidence from two Catalan dialects", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 1–25  
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117–121  

Simple English

Dentals or Dental consonants are coronal consonants, meaning they are made by touching the front of the tongue to the upper teeth. For example, th in the English word thing is a dental consonant written [θ].


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