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Department of Linguistics


Articulation of Nasal Stops

Robert Mannell

During the articulation of the nasal stops the following sequence of events occurs:-

  1. If it is not already open, the velum opens.
  2. The oral tract is closed at the place of articulation. This is the start of the stop occlusion. Only the oral cavity is occluded. Air is free to flow through the nasal cavity.
  3. During the oral occlusion air continues to be expelled from the lungs. Usually the vocal folds are together and are vibrating (to produce a voiced sound source) and both the airflow and the majority of the voiced sound energy pass through the nasal cavity. Some sound energy also passes into the part of the oral cavity posterior to the occlusion (ie. the place of articulation). This posterior part of the oral cavity modifies the quality of the sound to create the distinctive sound qualities of each of the nasal stops.
  4. When the nasal stop phoneme is finished, the oral closure may be released, unless this is prevented by the requirements of the next phoneme.
  5. Because air pressure is released through the nose, there is usually not an audible burst when the oral occlusion is released.
  6. The active articulator continues to move towards its target for the next phoneme. The velum is free to close now, unless this is prevented by the requirements of the next phoneme.

In the following diagrams the position of the articulators is shown during the nasal stop occlusion.

Figure 1: Articulation of bilabial nasal stops.

Figure 2: Articulation of alveolar nasal stops.

Figure 3: Articulation of palatal nasal stops.

Figure 4: Articulation of velar nasal stops.