Encyclopedia > Velar consonant

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Velar consonant

Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum).

Examples:

  • English [g] (as in get or golf), [k] are velar stops
  • Scots ch in loch is a velar fricative (SAMPA [x])
  • English ng in ring is a velar nasal (SAMPA [N]).

Since the velar region of the roof of the mouth is relatively extensive and the movements of the dorsum are not very precise, velars easily undergo assimilation, shifting their articulation back or to the front depending on the quality of adjacent vowels. They often become automatically fronted, that is partly or completely palatal before a following front vowel, and retracted before back vowels.

Palatalised velars (like English [k] in keen or cube) are sometimes referred to as palatovelars. Many languages also have labiovelar phonemes, including the approximant [w] and others given symbols like [kw] etc. In these the articulation is accompanied by rounding of the lips.



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