Labial–velar consonant

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Tongue shape

Labial–velar consonants are doubly articulated at the velum and the lips, such as [k͡p]. They are sometimes called "labiovelar consonants", a term that can also refer to labialized velars, such as [kʷ] and the approximant [w].

Doubly articulated labial-velars

Truly doubly articulated labial–velars occur as stops and nasals in the majority of languages in West and Central Africa (for example in the name of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Ivory Coast; they are found in many Niger–Congo languages as well as in the Ubangian, Chadic and Central Sudanic families), and are relatively common in the eastern end of New Guinea. They include [k͡p, ɡ͡b, ŋ͡m]. To pronounce these, one must attempt to say the velar consonants, but then close their lips for the bilabial component, and then release the lips. Note that, while 90% of the occlusion overlaps, the onset of the velar occurs slightly before that of the labial, and the release of the labial occurs slightly after that of the velar, so that the preceding vowel sounds as if followed by a velar, while the following vowel sounds as if preceded by a labial. Thus the order of the letters in ⟨k͡p⟩ and ⟨ɡ͡b⟩ is not arbitrary, but is motivated by the phonetic details of these sounds.

The Yélî Dnye language of Rossel Island, Papua New Guinea, has both labial–velars and labial–alveolar consonants. Labial–velar stops and nasals also occur in Vietnamese, albeit only at the ends of words.

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
k͡p voiceless labial–velar stop Logba ò-kpàyɔ̀ [ò-k͡pàjɔ̀] 'God'
ɡ͡b voiced labial–velar stop Ewe Ewegbe [ɛβɛɡ͡be] 'the Ewe language'
ŋ͡m labial–velar nasal Vietnamese cung [kuŋ͡m] 'sector'

These sounds are clearly single consonants rather than consonant clusters. The Eggon language, for example, contrasts these possibilities, with /bɡ/ and /ɡb/ both distinct from /ɡ͡b/. Ignoring tone, we have:

Single consonant Two-consonant sequence
pom to pound kba to dig
abu a dog bɡa to beat, to kill
aku a room ak͡pki a stomach
ɡom to break ɡ͡bɡa to grind
k͡pu to die kpu to kneel
ɡ͡bu to arrive ɡba to divide

Similar phonemes

Doubly articulated labial-velars with approximant release

Some languages, especially in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu, combine these labial–velar consonants with a labial–velar approximant release, hence [k͡pʷ], [ŋ͡mʷ]. The extinct language Volow had a prenasalised labial-velar stop with approximant release [ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡bʷ].[1]

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
k͡pʷ voiceless labial–velar stop with approximant release Dorig rqa [rk͡pʷa][2] 'woman'
ŋ͡mʷ labial–velar nasal with approximant release Mwesen ē [ɪŋ͡mʷ] 'house'
ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡bʷ prenasalized voiced labial–velar stop with approximant release Volow n-leevēn [nlɛᵑᵐɡ͡bʷɛβɪn] 'woman'

Other variants

Labial–velar stops also occur as ejective [k͡pʼ] and implosive [ɠ͡ɓ] (often written ⟨ɡ͡ɓ⟩); Floyd (1981) reports a voiceless implosive [ƙ͜ƥ] from Igbo. There may be labial–velar approximants in languages like Japanese. Bilabial clicks are sometimes considered to be labial–velar consonants as well, though the velar articulation is part of the airstream mechanism.


For transcribing these sounds ligatures can occasionally be seen instead of digraphs with a tie bar:

Labial velars.png

Note that, although such symbols are readily understood, they are not sanctioned by the IPA, and have no Unicode values. They can, however, be specified as the way an OpenType font displays gb and kp digraphs.

See also


  1. See p.116 of: François, Alexandre (2005), "A typological overview of Mwotlap, an Oceanic language of Vanuatu", Linguistic Typology, 9 (1): 115–146, doi:10.1515/lity.2005.9.1.115<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  2. See pp.429-430 of: François, Alexandre (2010), "Phonotactics and the prestopped velar lateral of Hiw: Resolving the ambiguity of a complex segment", Phonology, 27 (3): 393–434, doi:10.1017/s0952675710000205<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


br:Kensonenn gweuz-drekstaon

de:Labiovelar es:Consonante labio-velar lv:Labiāli velārs līdzskanis nl:Labiaal-velair ja:両唇軟口蓋音 pl:Spółgłoska labiowelarna