Guttural consonant

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In articulatory phonetics, the term guttural consonant is sometimes used to describe any of several consonantal speech sounds whose primary place of articulation is near the back of the oral cavity, specifically some velar consonants, uvular consonants, pharyngeal consonants, and epiglottal consonants (see for more information).

Guttural consonants

The word guttural is derived from the French and Latin denoting a sound coming from the throat. Thus, it refers to a pronounced or heavy sound that emanates from the pharynx and up from the back of the throat and has a certain kind of very heavy and pronounced "throaty" quality.

The concept of gutturality is not entirely objective, but a guttural sound is generally believed to be one which is pronounced with the dorsum of the tongue and/or at any point behind the hard palate, including the soft palate, the uvula or the pharynx. In scientific discourse, the more precise terms indicating place of articulation, such as uvular consonant, are generally preferred.

Popular attitudes towards guttural consonants

While the modern spoken English language contains several velar consonants, guttural consonants like the ones found in Arabic or Hebrew are often perceived as very alien. Some English speakers find those sounds to be very hard on the ear (for example, J.R.R. Tolkien), an attitude not commonly shared by native speakers of Arabic or Hebrew.

So-called 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. Often, this is just a result of the beliefs of Anglophones or of non-speakers of those languages. Some languages which have fallen under the popular meaning of "guttural", as opposed to the technical meaning, are German, Ubykh, and Arabic.

French, Arabic, Hebrew, Scots, and also partly German, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Yiddish, all contain sounds that come from the back of the throat or tongue. Sometimes whether a language is considered guttural or not could depend on differences within regions and countries. In French, the only truly guttural sound is a uvular trill; Arabic and Hebrew both contain rather more gutturals, including velar, uvular and pharyngeal Laut


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