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Nasal vowel: Wikis


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A nasal vowel is a vowel that is produced with a lowering of the velum so that air escapes both through nose as well as the mouth. The term stands in opposition to the term "oral vowel" refers to an ordinary vowel without this nasalisation. Note that these terms can be slightly misleading as the air does not come exclusively out of the nose in nasal vowels.

In most languages, vowels that are adjacent to nasal consonants are produced partially or fully with a lowered velum in a natural process of assimilation and are therefore technically nasal, though few speakers would notice. This is the case in English: vowels preceding nasal consonants are nasalized, but there is no phonemic distinction between nasal and oral vowels (and all vowels are considered phonemically oral). However, the word "huh" is generally pronounced with a nasal vowel.

In Portuguese and French, by contrast, nasal vowels are phonemes distinct from oral vowels, since words exist which differ mainly in the nasal or oral quality of a vowel. For example, the words beau /bo/ "beautiful" and bon /bõ/ "good" are pronounced virtually the same, except that the former is oral and the latter is nasal. (More precisely, the vowel in bon is slightly more open, leading many dictionaries to transcribe it as /ɔ̃/.)


Suprasegmental and transitional nasal vowels

In Min Chinese, nasal vowels carry persistent air flow though both the mouth and the nose, producing an invariant and sustainable vowel quality. That is, this type of nasalization is synchronic and suprasegmental to the voicing. In contrast, nasal vowels in French or Portuguese are transitional, where the velum ends up constricting the mouth airway.

In languages which have transitional nasal vowels, it is commonly the case that there are fewer nasal vowels than oral ones. This appears to be due to a loss of distinctivity caused by the nasal articulation.


Languages which are written in the Latin alphabet may indicate nasal vowels by a trailing silent n or m, as is the case in French, Portuguese, Bamana or Yoruba; others use diacritical symbols (Portuguese also employs a tilde ~ on ã, õ, before vowels; Polish and Navajo use a hook underneath the letter, called an ogonek, as in ą, ę). Other languages may use a superscript n: aⁿ, eⁿ. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, nasal vowels are denoted by a tilde over the symbol for the vowel, as in Portuguese.

Abugida scripts, which are used for most Indian languages, use the bindu (.) symbol and its variations to denote nasal vowels and nasal junctions between consonants.

The Nastalique script used by Urdu denotes nasalisation by employing the Arabic letter "noon" but removing the dot. It is called a noon-ghunna or nasalized N. Nasalized vowels occur in classical Arabic, but not in contemporary speech or standardized Arabic. There is no orthographic way to denote the nasalization, but it is systematically taught as part of the essential rules of tajweed employed while reading the Quran. Nasalization usually occurs in recitation when a final N (noon) is followed by a Y (ya)

Example languages

Languages which use phonemic nasal vowels include, among others:

See also



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