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Glottal states
From open to closed:
Voiceless (full airstream)
Breathy voice (murmur)
Slack voice
Modal voice (maximum vibration)
Stiff voice
Creaky voice (restricted airstream)
Glottalized (blocked airstream)
Supra-glottal phonation
Faucalized voice ("hollow")
Harsh voice ("pressed")
Strident (harsh trilled)
Non-phonemic phonation

Glottalization is the complete or partial closure of the glottis during the articulation of another sound. Glottalization of vowels and voiced consonants is most often realized as creaky voice (partial closure). Glottalization of voiceless consonants usually involves complete closure of the glottis; another way to describe this phenomenon is to say that a glottal stop is made simultaneously with another consonant. In certain cases, the glottal stop can even wholly replace the voiceless consonant.

There are two other ways to represent glottalization in the IPA: (a) the same way as ejectives, with an apostrophe; or (b) with the under-tilde for creaky voice. For example, the Yapese word for sick with a glottalized m could be transcribed as either [mʼaar] or [m̰aar]. (In some typefaces, the apostrophe will occur above the m.)


Glottal replacement

When a phoneme is completely substituted by a glottal stop [ʔ], one speaks of glottaling or glottal replacement. This is, for instance, very common in Cockney and Estuary English. In these dialects, the glottal stop is an allophone of /p/, /t/, and /k/ word-finally and when preceded by a stressed vowel and followed by an unstressed vowel (this also includes syllabic /l/ /m/ and /n/)[1]. E.g "city" [ˈsɪʔɪ], "bottle" [ˈbɒʔəɫ], "Britain" [ˈbɹɪʔən], "seniority" [siːniˈɒɹəʔi]. This also occurs in Indonesian, where syllable final /k/ is pronounced as a glottal stop.

In Hawaiian, the glottal stop is reconstructed to have come from other Proto-Polynesian consonants. The following table displays the shift /k//ʔ/ as well as the shift /t//k/

Gloss man sea taboo octopus canoe
 Tongan taŋata tahi tapu feke vaka
 Samoan taŋata tai tapu feʔe vaʔa
 Māori taŋata tai tapu ɸeke waka
 Rapanui taŋata tai tapu heke vaka
 Rarotongan  taŋata tai tapu ʔeke vaka
 Hawaiian kanaka kai kapu heʔe waʔa

Glottal replacement is not purely a feature of consonants. Yanesha' has three vowel qualities (/a/, /e/, and/o/) that have phonemic contrasts between short, long, and "laryngeal" or glottalized forms. While the latter generally consists of creaky phonation, there is some allophony involved. In pre-final contexts, a variation occurs (especially before voiced consonants) ranging from creaky phonation throughout the vowel to a sequence of a vowel, glottal stop, and a slightly rearticulated vowel: /maˀˈnʲoʐ/ ('deer') → [maʔa̯ˈnʲoʂ][2].

Glottal reinforcement

When a phoneme is accompanied (either sequentially or simultaneously) by a [ʔ], then one speaks of pre-glottalization or glottal reinforcement. This is very common in all varieties of English, RP included; /t/ is the most affected but /p/, /k/, and even occasionally /tʃ/[3] are also affected. In the English dialects exhibiting pre-glottalization, the consonants in question are usually glottalized in the coda position. E.g. "what" [ˈwɒʔt], "fiction" [ˈfɪʔkʃən], "milkman" [ˈmɪlʔkmæn], "opera" [ˈɒʔpɹə]. To a certain extent, there is free variation in English between glottal replacement and glottal reinforcement[1].

See also


  1. ^ a b (Sullivan 1992, p. 46)
  2. ^ (Fast 1953, p. 192)
  3. ^ (Roach 1973, p. 10)



  • Andrésen, B.S. (1968). Pre-glottalization in English Standard Pronunciation. Oslo: Norwegian University Press.  
  • Christopherson, P. (1952). "The glottal stop in English". English Studies 33: 156–163. doi:10.1080/00138385208596879.  
  • Fast, Peter W. (1953). "Amuesha (Arawak) Phonemes". International Journal of American Linguistics 19: 191–194. doi:10.1086/464218.  
  • Higginbottom, E. (1964). "Glottal reinforcement in English". Transactions of the Philological Society 63: 129. doi:10.1111/j.1467-968X.1964.tb01010.x.  
  • O'Connor, J.D. (1952). "RP and the reinforcing glottal stop". English Studies 33: 214–218.  
  • Roach, P. (1973). "Glottalization of English /p/, /t/, /k/ and /tʃ/: a reexamination". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 3.1: 10–21.  
  • Sullivan, A.E. (1992). Sound Change in Progress: a study of phonological change and lexical diffusion, with reference to glottalization and r-loss in the speech of some Exeter schoolchildren.. Exeter University Press.  

English accents

  • Foulkes, P.; Docherty, G. (1999). Urban Voices: accent studies in the British Isles.. London: Arnold.  
  • Hughes, A.; Trudgill, P. (2005). English Accents and Dialects (fourth ed.). London: Arnold.  
  • Wells, J.C. (1982). Accents of English: volumes 1-3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

External links

  • [1] Kortlandt, Frederik. Glottalization, Preaspiration and Gemination in English and Scandinavian. Doc PDF.
  • [2] Kortland, Frederik. How Old is the English Glottal Stop?. Doc PDF.
  • [3] Docherty, G. et al. Descriptive Adequacy in Phonology: a variationist perspective. Doc PDF.
  • [4] Kerswill, P. Dialect Levelling and Geographical Diffusion in British English. Doc PDF.
  • [5] Przedlacka, J. Estuary English and RP: Some Recent Findings. Doc PDF.
  • [6] Wells, J.C. Site of the UCL (University College of London) Department of Phonetics and Linguistics. Web documents relating to Estuary English.


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