Dorsal consonant

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Dorsal consonants are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue (the dorsum). They include the palatal, velar and, in some cases, alveolo-palatal and uvular consonants. They contrast with coronal consonants, articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and laryngeal consonants, articulated in the pharyngeal cavity.


The dorsum of the tongue can contact a broad region of the roof of the mouth, from the hard palate (palatal consonants), the flexible velum behind that (velar consonants), to the uvula at the back of the mouth cavity (uvular consonants). These distinctions are not clear cut, and sometimes finer gradations such as pre-palatal, pre-velar, and post-velar will be noted.

Because the tip of the tongue can curl back to also contact the hard palate for retroflex consonants (subapical-palatal), consonants produced by contact between the dorsum and the palate are sometimes called dorso-palatal.


Familiar dorsal consonants
IPA symbol Name of the consonant Language Example IPA
ɲ Voiced palatal nasal Albanian një [ɲə]
ʝ Voiced palatal fricative Modern Greek για [ʝa]
ç Voiceless palatal fricative German Reich [ʁaɪ̯ç]
j Voiced palatal approximant English yellow [ˈjɛloʊ]
ŋ Voiced velar nasal sing [ˈsɪŋ]
ɡ Voiced velar plosive garden [ˈɡɑː(ɹ)dn̩]
k Voiceless velar plosive cake [ˈkeɪk]
ɣ Voiced velar fricative Modern Greek góma (γόμα) [ˈɣoma]
x Voiceless velar fricative Malay akhir [aːˈxir]
ʍ Voiceless labio velar approximant English whine [ˈʍaɪn]
w Voiced labio velar approximant water [ˈwɔːtə(ɹ)]
q Voiceless uvular plosive Arabic Qurʾān (قرآن) [qurʔaːn]
ɢ Voiced uvular plosive Persian Qom (قم) [ɢom]
ʁ Voiced uvular fricative
or approximant
French Paris [paʁi]
χ Voiceless uvular fricative German Bach [baχ]

See also[edit]


  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19815-6.