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Title: Guttural  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Place of articulation, Glottal consonant, Pharyngeal consonant, Cat, Devanagari
Collection: Consonants, Place of Articulation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Tongue shape

Guttural speech sounds are those with a primary place of articulation near the back of the oral cavity. In some definitions, this is restricted to pharyngeal consonants, but in others includes some velar and uvular consonants. Guttural sounds are typically consonants, but some vowels' articulations may also be considered guttural in nature.

Although the term has historically been used by phoneticians, and is occasionally used by phonologists today, it is now more common in popular use as an imprecise term for sounds produced relatively far back in the vocal tract. The term continues to be used by some phonologists to denote laryngeal consonants (including uvulars), as well as murmured, pharyngealized, glottalized, and strident vowels.[1][2]


  • Etymology 1
  • Guttural languages 2
    • Significant usage 2.1
    • Partial usage 2.2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5


The word guttural literally means 'of the throat', and is derived from the Latin word for throat. In colloquial usage, the term is used for any sound pronounced in the throat or near the back of the mouth that is considered "harsh." Contrary to popular opinion, the word has no connection to the word gutter. The OED says,

"By non-phoneticians any mode of pronunciation which is harsh or grating in effect is often supposed to be 'guttural'; with this notion the designation is popularly applied by Englishmen to the German ch, but not to k or g, though technically it belongs equally to them. [That is, they are all pronounced at the same location in the mouth.] As a technical term of phonetics, the word was first used to denote the Hebrew spirant consonants ע ,ח ,ה ,א [that is, glottal /ʔ/ and /h/, uvular /χ/, and pharyngeal /ʕ/]; it is now commonly applied (inaccurately, if its etymological sense be regarded) to the sounds formed by the back of the tongue and the palate, as (k, ɡ, x, ɣ, ŋ) [the velars]."

Guttural languages

In the popular consciousness, some languages are considered to be guttural languages, as opposed to just possessing some sounds which are pronounced at the back of the oral cavity. The sounds these languages have are produced from the pharynx at the back of the throat, or by the back of the tongue, and as well as the palate and uvula. A guttural language tends to make a sound rather "heavy" and/or "throaty".

To English speakers, the guttural languages would sound strange and may be even hard on the ear of those who are used to the English pronunciation. English speakers are not commonly exposed to guttural vowels, so popular impressions focus on guttural consonants.[3] To the speakers of guttural languages this may be seen as an attempt of anglophones to consider themselves superior to those who don't speak their language.

A language that is perceived to be guttural may be subjective; To an English speaker, [ɡ], [k], and [ŋ] are not considered guttural, but velar fricatives and affricates such as [x], [ɣ], and [q] are considered gutturals. The glottal consonants [h] and [ʔ] are not considered guttural, but epiglottal [ʜ] and [ʡ] are. Quite to the contrary, the sounds of "k", "q", "g", "ng" and "nk", as commonly heard in English, are actually also "gutturals".[4][5]

Significant usage

Languages that extensively use [x], [χ], [ɣ] and/or [q]:

In addition to their usage of [q], [x], [χ] and [ɣ], these languages also have the pharyngeal consonants of [ʕ] and [ħ]:

Partial usage

In French, the only truly guttural sound is (usually) a uvular fricative (or the guttural R). According to some authors,[39] /x/ is post-velar or uvular in the Spanish of northern and central Spain.[40][41][42][43] In Portuguese, [ʁ] is becoming dominant in urban areas. There is also a realization as a [χ], and the original pronunciation as an [r] also remains very common in various dialects. In Brazil, /ʁ/ can be velar, uvular, or glottal and may be voiceless unless between voiced sounds.[44][45]

In Russian, /x/ is assimilated to the palatalization of the following velar consonant: лёгких    . It also has a voiced allophone ɣ, which occurs before voiced obstruents.[46] In the Standard Croatian variety of Serbo-Croatian, /x/ is voiced to [ɣ] before voiced consonants.[47] In Romanian, /h/ becomes the velar [x] in word-final positions (duh 'spirit') and before consonants (hrean 'horseradish').[48] In Czech, the phoneme /x/ followed by a voiced obstruent can by realized as either [ɦ] or [ɣ], e.g. abych byl   .[49] In Swedish, /r/ has a guttural or "French-R" pronunciation in the dialects of ex-Danish (and bordering) provinces.[50]

In Kyrgyz, the consonant phoneme /k/ has a uvular realisation ([q]) in back vowel contexts. In front-vowel environments, /g/ is fricativised between continuants to [ɣ], and in back vowel environments both /k/ and /g/ fricativise to [χ] and [ʁ] respectively.[51] In Uyghur, the phoneme /ʁ/ occurs with a back vowel. In Kazakh, /x/ occurs in Russian borrowings.[52] In the Mongolian language, /x/ is usually followed by /ŋ/.[53]

The [54]

In Swabian German, a pharyngeal approximant [ʕ] is an allophone of /ʁ/ in nucleus and coda positions.[55] In onsets, it is pronounced as a uvular approximant.[55] In Danish, /ʁ/ may have slight frication, and, according to Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), it may be a pharyngeal approximant [ʕ].[56] In Finnish, a weak pharyngeal fricative is the realization of /h/ after the vowels /ɑ/ or /æ/ in syllable-coda position, e.g. [tæħti] 'star'. In Limburg Standard Dutch /r/ may be realized as a pharyngeal approximant [ʕ].[57]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Hayward, K. M. and Hayward, R. J. 1989. '"Guttural": Arguments for a New Distinctive Feature', Transactions of the Philological Society 87: 179-193.
  4. ^ McCarthy, John J. 1989. 'Guttural Phonology', ms., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  5. ^ McCarthy, John J. Forthcoming. 'Guttural Transparency', ms., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009:17–20)
  8. ^ Beyer, Klaus (1986). The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.
  9. ^ Brock, Sebastian (2006). An Introduction to Syriac Studies. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-349-8.
  10. ^ Shiraliyev, Mammadagha. The Baku Dialect. Azerbaijan SSR Academy of Sciences Publ.: Baku, 1957; p. 41
  11. ^ Kavitskaya 2010, p. 10
  12. ^ Friedrich Maurer uses the term Istvaeonic instead of Franconian; see Friedrich Maurer (1942), Nordgermanen und Alemannen: Studien zur germanischen und frühdeutschen Sprachgeschichte, Stammes- und Volkskunde, Bern: Verlag Francke.
  13. ^ Lazard, Gilbert, "Pahlavi, Pârsi, dari: Les langues d'Iran d'apès Ibn al-Muqaffa" in R.N. Frye, Iran and Islam. In Memory of the late Vladimir Minorsky, Edinburgh University Press, 1971.
  14. ^ For a history of the German consonants see Fausto Cercignani, The Consonants of German: Synchrony and Diachrony, Milano, Cisalpino, 1979.
  15. ^ Boeder (2002), p. 3
  16. ^ Boeder (2005), p. 6
  17. ^ Gamkrelidze (1966), p. 69
  18. ^ Fähnrich & Sardzhveladze (2000)
  19. ^
  20. ^ Bauer, Michael Blas na Gàidhlig - The Practical Guide to Gaelic Pronunciation (2011) Akerbeltz ISBN 978-1-907165-00-9
  21. ^ A Beginners' Guide to Tajiki by Azim Baizoyev and John Hayward, Routledge, London and New York, 2003, p. 3
  22. ^
  23. ^ Brenzinger (2007:128)
  24. ^ Chaker (1996:4–5)
  25. ^ Abdel-Massih (1971b:11)
  26. ^ Creissels (2006:3–4)
  27. ^ Richard Hayward, "Afroasiatic", in Heine & Nurse, 2000, African Languages
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ Nichols, J. 1997 Nikolaev and Starostin's North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary and the Methodology of Long-Range Comparison: an assessment Paper presented at the 10th Biennial Non-Slavic Languages (NSL) Conference, Chicago, 8–10 May 1997.
  34. ^ Row 7 in
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ .
  38. ^
  39. ^ For example Chen (2007), Hamond (2001) and Lyons (1981)
  40. ^ Chen (2007:13)
  41. ^ Hamond (2001:?), cited in Scipione & Sayahi (2005:128)
  42. ^ Harris & Vincent (1988:83)
  43. ^ Lyons (1981:76)
  44. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004:228)
  45. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:5–6, 11)
  46. ^
  47. ^ Landau et al. (1999:67)
  48. ^
  49. ^ Kučera, H. (1961). The Phonology of Czech. s’ Gravenhage: Mouton & Co.
  50. ^ Garlén 1988, pp. 73–74
  51. ^ Кызласов И. Л., Рунические письменности евразийских степей (Kyzlasov I.L. Runic scripts of Eurasian steppes), Восточная литература (Eastern Literature), Moscow, 1994, pp. 80 on, ISBN 5-02-017741-5, with further bibliography.
  52. ^ Hahn 1991, pp. 80–84
  53. ^
  54. ^ Borg (1997), p. 260.
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:323)
  57. ^ Collins & Mees (2003:201)


  • Bauer, Michael Blas na Gàidhlig - The Practical Guide to Gaelic Pronunciation (2011), Akerbeltz. ISBN 978-1-907165-00-9
  • Beyer, Klaus (1986). The Aramaic language: its distribution and subdivisions. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. ISBN 3-525-53573-2.
  • An Introduction to Syriac Studies. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 1-59333-349-8.
  • Kyzlasov I.L. Runic scripts of Eurasian steppes), Восточная литература (Eastern Literature), Moscow, 1994, pp. 80 on, ISBN 5-02-017741-5
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