Voiced labial–palatal approximant

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Voiced labial–palatal approximant
IPA Number171
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ɥ
Unicode (hex)U+0265
Braille⠲ (braille pattern dots-256)⠓ (braille pattern dots-125)

The voiced labial–palatal (or labio-palatal) approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It has two constrictions in the vocal tract: with the tongue on the palate, and rounded at the lips. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɥ, a rotated lowercase letter ⟨h⟩, or occasionally , which indicates [j] with a different kind of rounding.

The labial–palatal approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close front rounded vowel [y]. They alternate with each other in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, ɥ and with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound. Sometimes,[1] is written in place of , even though the former symbol denotes an extra-short [y] in the official IPA.

Some languages, though, have a palatal approximant that is unspecified for rounding, and therefore cannot be considered the semivocalic equivalent of either [y] or its unrounded counterpart [i]. An example of such language is Spanish, in which the labialized palatal approximant (not a semivowel) appears allophonically with rounded vowels in words such as ayuda [aˈʝ̞ʷuð̞a] 'help'. According to some sources, it is not correct to transcribe this with the symbol ɥ, which has a different kind of rounding, or with , which implies spread lips; the only suitable transcription is ʝ̞ʷ.[2] See palatal approximant for more information.

There is also the labialized postpalatal approximant[3] in some languages, which is articulated slightly more back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical labialized palatal approximant, though not as back as the prototypical labialized velar approximant. It can be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close central rounded vowel [ʉ]. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ɥ̄ or ɥ˗ (both symbols denote a retracted ɥ), ɥ̈ (centralized ɥ), (advanced w) or (centralized w). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are H_o, H_", w_+ and w_", respectively. Other possible transcriptions include a centralized and labialized j (j̈ʷ in the IPA, j_"_w in X-SAMPA) and a non-syllabic ʉ (ʉ̯ in the IPA, }_^ in X-SAMPA).

Especially in broad transcription, the labialized postpalatal approximant may be transcribed as a palatalized and labialized velar approximant ( in the IPA, w' or w_j in X-SAMPA).

Compressed palatal approximant[edit]

The compressed palatal approximant is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ɥ, and that is the convention used in this article. There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter ⟨β̞⟩ as j͡β̞ (simultaneous [j] and labial compression) or jᵝ ([j] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic   ͍ may also be used with a labialized approximant letter ɥ͍ as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.

The compressed post-palatal approximant[3] can be transcribed simply as ɥ̈ (centralized [ɥ]), and that is the convention used in this article. Other possible transcriptions include j̈ᵝ (centralized [j] modified with labial compression) and ɥ͍̈ (centralized [ɥ] with the spread-lip diacritic).


Features of the compressed palatal approximant:


Because the labialized palatal approximant is assumed to have compression, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some examples in the table below may actually have protrusion.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz ауаҩы [awaˈɥə] 'human' See Abkhaz phonology
Chinese Mandarin / yuè [ɥe̹˥˩] 'moon' See Mandarin phonology
Shanghainese[4] /yoq [ɥo̽ʔ˥] 'bath' Allophone of /j/ before rounded vowels.[4]
English Bay Islands[5] will [ɥɪl] 'will' Allophone of /w/ or /v/ that only occurs before /i/ or /ɪ/. See Bay Islands English#Phonology.
French nuire [nɥiʁ] 'to harm' Merges with /w/ or /y/ in Belgian French. See French phonology
Iaai vëk [ɥæk] 'four' Contrasts with the voiceless /ɥ̊/.
Kham[6] Gamale Kham व़े [ɥe] 'husband'
Korean Gyeonggi 쉬엄쉬엄 / swieomswieom [ɕɥiʌmɕɥiʌm] 'Take it easy' Only occurs before /i/. See Korean phonology
Kurdish düa [dʉːɥɑː] 'back' See Kurdish phonology
Norwegian Urban East[7] dualisme [dʉ̞ɥ̈ɑˈlɪ̟smə] 'dualism' Post-palatal; appears prevocalically after the compressed close vowels /ʉ, ʉː/.[7] May be transcribed with or simply w. See Norwegian phonology
Shipibo[8] [example needed] Allophone of /w/ before /i, ĩ/. Only lightly labialized.[8]
Swedish Central Standard ful [fʉ̟ɥl] 'ugly' Non-syllabic element of the common diphthongal realization of /ʉː/ ([ʉ̟ɥ]); can be a fricative instead. Palatal in the Central Standard variety, post-palatal in some other varieties. See Swedish phonology
Upper Sorbian[9] wěm [ɥɪm] 'I know' Soft counterpart of /w/.[9]
Xumi Lower[10] [dʑɥɛ˩˥] 'fang' Allophone of /w/ when preceded by an (alveolo-)palatal initial and/or followed by one of the front vowels /i, e, ɛ/ (in Upper Xumi also /ĩ/).[10][11]
Upper[11] [dɥe˩˥] 'to ask'

Protruded palatal approximant[edit]

Protruded palatal approximant

As there are no diacritics in the IPA to distinguish protruded and compressed rounding, an old diacritic for labialization,   ̫, will be used here as an ad hoc symbol for the protruded palatal approximant. Another possible transcription is ɥʷ or (a palatal approximant modified by endolabialization).

Acoustically, this sound is "between" the more typical compressed palatal approximant [ɥ] and the non-labialized palatal approximant [j].


Features of the protruded palatal approximant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Norwegian Urban East[7] cyanid [sʏ̫ɥ̫ɑˈniːd] 'cyanide' Appears prevocalically after the protruded close vowels /ʏ, yː/.[7] See Norwegian phonology
Spanish ayuda [äˈʝ̞ʷuð̞ä] 'help' Approximant consonant; lenited allophone of /ɟ͡ʝ/ before and between rounded vowels. May be a fricative [ʝʷ] in emphatic speech. See Spanish phonology


  1. ^ See e.g. Mangold (2005:42)
  2. ^ Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 208.
  3. ^ a b Instead of "post-palatal", it can be called "retracted palatal", "backed palatal", "palato-velar", "pre-velar", "advanced velar", "fronted velar" or "front-velar". For simplicity, this article uses only the term "post-palatal".
  4. ^ a b Chen & Gussenhoven (2015), p. 331.
  5. ^ Graham (1997), p. 164.
  6. ^ Wilde (2016).
  7. ^ a b c d Kristoffersen (2000), p. 35.
  8. ^ a b Valenzuela, Márquez Pinedo & Maddieson (2001), p. 283.
  9. ^ a b Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 36–37, 41, 46.
  10. ^ a b Chirkova & Chen (2013), p. 368.
  11. ^ a b Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013), p. 387.


  • Chen, Yiya; Gussenhoven, Carlos (2015), "Shanghai Chinese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 45 (3): 321–327, doi:10.1017/S0025100315000043
  • Chirkova, Katia; Chen, Yiya (2013), "Xumi, Part 1: Lower Xumi, the Variety of the Lower and Middle Reaches of the Shuiluo River", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (3): 363–379, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000157
  • Chirkova, Katia; Chen, Yiya; Kocjančič Antolík, Tanja (2013), "Xumi, Part 2: Upper Xumi, the Variety of the Upper Reaches of the Shuiluo River", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (3): 381–396, doi:10.1017/S0025100313000169
  • Graham, William (1997), Bay Islands English: Linguistic Contact and Convergence in the Western Caribbean (PDF), University of Florida
  • Kristoffersen, Gjert (2000), The Phonology of Norwegian, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-823765-5
  • Mangold, Max (2005) [1962], Das Aussprachewörterbuch (6th ed.), Mannheim: Dudenverlag, ISBN 978-3-411-04066-7
  • Martínez Celdrán, Eugenio (2004), "Problems in the Classification of Approximants", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (2): 201–210, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001732, S2CID 144568679
  • Šewc-Schuster, Hinc (1984), Gramatika hornjo-serbskeje rěče, Budyšin: Ludowe nakładnistwo Domowina
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M.; Márquez Pinedo, Luis; Maddieson, Ian (2001), "Shipibo", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 31 (2): 281–285, doi:10.1017/S0025100301002109
  • Wilde, Christopher P. (2016), "Gamale Kham phonology revisited, with Devanagari-based orthography and lexicon", Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society (9): 130–199, hdl:1885/109195

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