Glottal stop: Wikis


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IPA – number 113
IPA – text ʔ
IPA – image {{{imagesize}}}
Entity ʔ
Kirshenbaum ?
About this sound Sound sample

The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. In English the feature is represented for example by the hyphen in uh-oh! and by the apostrophe or ʻokina in Hawaiʻi among those attempting an authentic pronunciation of that name.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal folds, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis.


Phonetic and phonological features

Features of the glottal stop:

  • Its airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than being initiated from the glottis or from a velic closure.
  • Its place of articulation is glottal which means it is articulated at and by the vocal cords (vocal folds).
  • Its manner of articulation is plosive or stop, which means it is produced by completely obstructing the airflow in the vocal tract.
  • Its phonation type is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibration of the vocal cords; necessarily so, because the vocal cords are held tightly together, preventing vibration.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means the air released when the closure is relaxed is allowed to escape through the mouth rather than the nasal cavity.
  • Because it is pronounced in the larynx, situated in the windpipe; i.e. it has no component involved in the description of movements of the organs of the mouth, for example the tongue, so the central/lateral dichotomy does not apply, and nor do the tongue-front features such as coronal and distributed.

Phonology and symbolization of the glottal stop in selected languages

While this segment is not a written[1] phoneme in English, it is present phonetically in nearly all dialects of English as an allophone of /t/ in the syllable coda. Speakers of Cockney and several other British dialects also pronounce an intervocalic /t/ between vowels as in city. Standard English inserts a glottal stop before a tautosyllabic voiceless plosive, e.g. sto’p, tha’t, kno’ck, wa’tch, also lea’p, soa’k, hel’p, pin’ch [2].

In many languages that don't allow a sequence of vowels, such as Persian, the glottal stop may be used to break up such a hiatus. There are intricate interactions between falling tone and the glottal stop in the histories of such languages as Danish (cf. stød), Chinese and Thai.

In the traditional Romanization of many languages, such as Arabic, the glottal stop is transcribed with an apostrophe, ‹’›, and this 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 reversed apostrophe, ‹‘› (called ‘okina in Hawaiian), which, confusingly, is also used to transcribe the Arabic ayin and is the source of the IPA character for the voiced pharyngeal fricative ‹ʕ›. In Malay, it is represented by the letter ‹k›, and in Võro and Maltese by ‹q›. Other scripts have whole letters used for representing the glottal stop, such as the Hebrew letter aleph.

Glottalization is found in five out of the ten surviving branches of Indo-European, viz. Indic, Iranian, Armenian, Baltic, and Germanic and is theorized to be ancient.[1]

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 also in Modern German and Hausa). Some orthographies employ a hyphen, instead of the reverse apostrophe, if the glottal stop occurs in the middle of the word (e.g. Tagalog pag-ibig 'love'). When it occurs in the end of a Tagalog word, the last vowel is written with a circumflex accent (if the accent is on the last syllable) or a grave accent (if the accent occurs at the penultimate syllable).


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz аи [ʔaj] 'no' See Abkhaz phonology
Arabic Standard[3] الله [ʔɑlˤˈlˤɑːh] 'God, 'Allah' See Arabic phonology
Metropolitan dialects[4] شقة [ʃæʔɐː] 'apartment' Corresponds to /q/ in Standard Arabic.
Bikol ba-go [ˈbaːʔɡo] 'new'
Burmese မ္ရစ္‌မ္ယား [mjiʔ mjà] 'rivers'
Cebuano bag-o [ˈbaːɡʔo] 'new'
Chamorro halu'u [həluʔu] 'shark'
Chechen кхоъ / qo' [qoʔ] 'three'
Chinese Shanghainese 一级了/ iqciql heq [ʔiɪʔ.tɕiɪʔ.ʔlǝʔ] 'superb'
Chintang [caʔwa] 'water'
Danish hånd [hɞnʔ] 'hand' See Danish phonology
Dutch[5] beamen [bəʔamən] 'to confirm' See Dutch phonology
English Cockney[6] cat [kʰɛ̝ʔ] 'cat' Allophone of /t/. See glottalization and English phonology
GA [kʰæʔt]
RP[7] button [b̥ɐʔn̩] 'button'
Finnish linja-auto [ˈlinjɑʔˈɑuto] 'bus' See Finnish phonology
German northern dialects Beamter [bəˈʔamtɐ] 'civil servant' See German phonology
western dialects Verwaltung [ˌfɔʔˈvaltʊŋ] 'management', 'administration'
Guaraní avañe [aʋaɲẽˈʔẽ] 'Guaraní' Occurs only between vowels
Hawaiian[8] ʻele ʻele [ˈʔɛlɛˈʔɛlɛ] 'black' See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrew מאמר [maʔamaʁ] 'article' See Hebrew phonology
Indonesian bakso [ˌbaʔˈso] 'meatball' Allophone of /k/ or /ɡ/ in the syllable coda
Kabardian Iэ [ʔɛ] 'to tell'
Malay tidak [ˈtidaʔ] 'no' Allophone of final /k/ in the syllable coda, pronounced before consonants or at end of word
Maltese qattus [ˈʔattus] 'cat'
Nez Perce yáakaʔ [ˈjaːkaʔ] 'black bear'
Persian معني [maʔni] 'meaning' See Persian phonology
Pirahã baíxi [ˈmàí̯ʔì] 'parent'
Rotuman[9] ʻusu [ʔusu] 'to box'
Seri he [ʔɛ] 'I'
Tagalog iihi [ˌʔiːˈʔiːhɛʔ] 'will urinate'
Tahitian puaʻa [puaʔa] 'pig'
Tongan tuʻu [tuʔu] 'stand'
Vietnamese a [ʔaʔ] 'by the way' See Vietnamese phonology
Võro piniq [ˈpinʲiʔ] 'dogs'
Welayta [ʔirʈa] 'wet'

See also



  • Blevins, Juliette (1994), "The Bimoraic Foot in Rotuman Phonology and Morphology", Oceanic Linguistics 33(2): 491–516  
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1992), "Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (2): 45–47  
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005). Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.). Blackwell.  
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 239–245  
  • Schane, Sanford A (1968), French Phonology and Morphology, Boston, Mass.: M.I.T. Press  
  • Sivertsen, Eva (1960), Cockney Phonology, Oslo: University of Oslo  
  • Thelwall, Robin (1990), "Illustrations of the IPA: Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 20 (2): 37–41  
  • Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press  


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