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The velar approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɰ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is M\.
Features of the velar approximant:
- Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by bringing one articulator close to another but without the vocal tract being narrowed to such an extent that a turbulent airstream is produced.
- Its place of articulation is velar which means it is articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the velum).
- Its phonation type is voiced, which means the vocal cords are vibrating during the articulation.
- It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
- It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the middle of the tongue, rather than the sides.
- The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.
English does not have the velar approximant. However, it does have the similar labial-velar approximant [w]. [w] has two places of articulation, labial and velar, whereas [ɰ] has only one, velar. To give some idea of how to pronounce [ɰ], try to make a "w" sound without the labial articulation, that is, without bringing the lips together.
In other languages
Cherokee has [ɰ] as a phoneme, although it is sometimes realized as its allophone [w]. It is usually Romanized as "w". In the Cherokee syllabary, it occurs in the following syllables: Ꮹ wa, Ꮺ we, Ꮻ wi, Ꮼ wo, Ꮽ wu, Ꮾ wv.
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