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The uvular nasal is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɴ⟩, a small capital version of the Latin letter n; the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is
The uvular nasal is a rare sound cross-lingually, presumably due to the relative difficulty involved in articulating it. To produce it, the uvula takes part in two quite distinct gestures, one in which the nasal passage is opened up to allow air to escape through the nose, the other in which the oral passage is closed through contact made by the back of the tongue against the uvula. This articulatory complexity can be said to account for the marked rarity of this sound among the world's languages.
The uvular nasal most commonly occurs as a conditioned allophone of other sounds in specific environments, for example as an allophone of /n/ before a uvular consonant as in Quechua, or as an allophone of /q/ before another nasal consonant as in Selkup. However, it has been reported to exist as an independent phoneme in a small number of languages. Examples include the Klallam language, the Tawellemmet and Ayr varieties of Tuareg Berber, the Pwo Karen languages, the Rangakha dialect of Khams Tibetan, at least two dialects of the Bai language, and the Papuan language Mapos Buang. In Mapos Buang, there is a three-way dorsal distinction between a palatal nasal, a velar nasal, and a uvular nasal.
There is also the pre-uvular nasal in some languages such as Yanyuwa, which is articulated slightly more front compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical uvular nasal, though not as front as the prototypical velar nasal. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ⟨ɴ̟⟩ (advanced ⟨ɴ⟩), ⟨ŋ̠⟩ or ⟨ŋ˗⟩ (both symbols denote a retracted ⟨ŋ⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are
Features of the uvular nasal:
|Afrikaans||Many speakers||aangenaam||[ˈɑːɴχənɑːm]||'pleasant'||Allophone of /n/ before /χ/; realized as [n] in formal speech. See Afrikaans phonology|
|Arabic||Standard||انقلاب||[ˌɪɴ.qʰɪˈlæːb]||'coup d'état'||Allophone of /n/ before /q/; more commonly realized as [n].|
|Armenian||անխելք||[ɑɴˈχɛlkʰ]||'brainless'||Allophone of /n/ before a uvular consonant in informal speech.|
|Dutch||Netherlandic||aangenaam||[ˈaːɴχəˌnaːm]||'pleasant'||Allophone of /n/ and /ŋ/ in dialects that use [χ]. Can be realized as [n] in formal speech.|
|Georgian||ზინყი||[ziɴqʼi]||'hip joint'||Allophone of /n/.|
|Inuvialuktun||namunganmun||[namuŋaɴmuɴ]||'to where?'||See Inuit phonology|
|Japanese||本/hon||[hõ̞ɴː]||'book'||Tongue closure may be incomplete. See Japanese phonology|
|Kalaallisut||paarngorpoq||[paaɴːoʁpoq]||'crawls'||See Inuit phonology|
|Klallam||sqəyáyŋəxʷ||[sqəˈjajɴəxʷ]||'big tree'||Contrasts with glottalized form.|
|Mapos Buang||alunġ||[aˈl̪uɴ]||'widower'||Phonemic, and contrasts with /ŋ/.|
|Bai||Enqi dialect||[ɴa˨˩]||'to walk'||Phonemic, and contrasts with /ŋ/.|
|Luobenzhuo dialect||我||[ɴɔ˦˨]||'I'||Phonemic, and contrasts with /ŋ/.|
|Quechua||Peruvian||sunqu||[ˈs̠oɴqo]||'heart'||Allophone of /n/.|
|Spanish||enjuto||[ẽ̞ɴˈχuto̞]||'shriveled'||Allophone of /n/. See Spanish phonology|
|Yanyuwa||wangulu||[waŋ̠ulu]||'adolescent boy'||Pre-uvular; contrasts with post-palatal [ŋ˖].|