Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A nasal consonant is produced when the velum—that fleshy part of the palate near the back—is lowered, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. The oral cavity still acts as a resonance chamber for the sound, but the air does not escape through the mouth as it is blocked by the tongue. Thus, it is not the nose itself that differentiates between the nasals, but rather the tongue's articulation. Air escapes through both the mouth and the nose during the prodution of a nasal vowel.
Nasal consonants are sonorants, (as are laterals, approximants, and vowels), meaning they do not restrict the escape of the air. (Compare with stop consonants, which block off the air completely, and fricatives, which force the air through a narrow channel. Both stops and fricatives are known as obstruents.) Nasals are sometimes called nasal stops because the flow of air through the mouth is stopped completely, although since air escapes through the nose, the flow is air is not stopped completely.
Acoustically, nasals have bands of energy at around 200 and 2,000 Hz.
List of nasal consonants:
- is a voiced bilabial nasal
- [ɱ] is a voiced labiodental nasal (SAMPA: [F])
- [n] is an alveolar or dental nasal: see alveolar nasal
- [ɳ] voiced retroflex nasal, common in Indic languages (SAMPA: [n`])
- [ɲ] voiced palatal nasal (SAMPA: [J]); is a common sound in European languages as in: Spanish ñ; or French and Italian gn; or Catalan and Hungarian ny; or Portuguese nh.
- [ŋ] voiced velar nasal (SAMPA: [N]), as in sing.
- [ɴ] voiced uvular nasal (SAMPA: [N\])
Examples of languages containing nasals:
French has [m], [n] and [ɲ], as well as [ŋ] in a few recent loanwords (such as le parking).
Spanish has [m], [n], [ɲ] as phonemes, and [ɱ] and [ŋ] as allophones.
French, Portuguese, and Polish have nasal vowels. In IPA, nasal vowels are indicated by placing a tilde (~) over the vowel in question. So French sang = [sɑ̃].
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