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Department of Linguistics


Ejective Airflow

Robert Mannell

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Ejective Airflow

Ejectives are also known as glottalic egressives.

The following sequence of events results in ejective airflow:-

  1. Vocal fold closure.
  2. Raised velum, completely closing off the nasal cavity.
  3. Supralaryngeal closure (in this case alveolar, but velar and bilabial are also common).
  4. Larynx raised reducing the volume of the oral cavity.
  5. Oral air is compressed in the smaller cavity. Oral air pressure is now greater than atmospheric air pressure.
  6. Release of supralaryngeal closure (3). Higher pressure rushes out to equalise pressure with the atmospheric air. This creates turbulent air flow and generates the ejective burst noise.

Ejective Stricture Type

Most ejectives have stop stricture but there are also languages with an alveolar fricative ejective and these, of course, have fricative stricture. All ejectives are either voiceless oral ejective stops or voiceless oral ejective fricatives.

Types of Ejective

The IPA lists the following possible ejectives:-

  • [pʼ] Bilabial voiceless ejective stop
  • [tʼ] Dental/Alveolar voiceless ejective stop
  • [kʼ] Velar voiceless ejective stop
  • [sʼ] Alveolar voiceless ejective fricative

Examples (contrasted with equivalent pulmonic stops or fricatives)

Hausa (Northern Nigeria)

[kʼakʼa] grandfather [kaka] harvest
[bakʼi] stranger [baki] month


[iːtʼwɛːtʼwɛ] nervousness


[sʼɛɡa] grace [sɛɡa] to worry