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Voiceless bilabial plosive
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The voiceless bilabial plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is p, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is p. The voiceless bilabial plosive in English is spelled with 'p', as in pit or speed.
Features of the voiceless bilabial plosive:
- Its manner of articulation is plosive or stop, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract.
- Its place of articulation is bilabial which means it is articulated with both lips.
- Its phonation type is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords.
- 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.
Varieties of the voiceless bilabial plosive
English has both aspirated and plain [p], but they are allophones.
When [p] occurs at the beginning of a word or a stressed syllable, like in print, support, or potato, then it is always aspirated. When it occurs at the beginning of an unstressed syllable that isn't at the beginning of a word, like in occupant, vapid, or keeper, then it is always unaspirated. When [p] occurs in a consonant cluster following [s], like in spin, sprain, or suspend, then it is always unaspirated. When it occurs at the end of a word, like in tip, wasp, or telescope, then it is usually unaspirated, and if the word is at the end of an utterance, then the [p] is often unreleased.
In other languages
The [p] sound is a very common sound cross-linguistically. Most languages have at least a plain [p], and some distinguish more than one variety. Many Indian languages, such as Hindi, have a two-way contrast between aspirated and plain [p].
Georgian has aspirated and ejective [p]. They are distinct phonemes, not allophones. Aspirated p is spelled with ფ. Ejective p is spelled with პ .
As in English, in German, plain and aspirated [p] are allophones.
In Ancient Greek, plain and aspirated [p] were separate phonemes, represented by the letters pi (π) and phi (φ) respectively. In Modern Greek there is no aspirated [p], phi having come to be pronounced [f].
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