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Similar, no dupe: How should a consonant (IPA) chart look for lip-less, teeth-less, non-humans?
Similar, no dupe: Which sounds could a lipless humanoid produce?


So recently, I decided to create a conlang that only uses sounds that teethless humanoids could produce. To do this, I of course need to answer the question

What sounds (on the IPA chart) could humanoids with no teeth produce?

Here is my attempt at figuring out this information:


I first started by eliminating consonants such as t/ʈ/d/ɖ, v/ⱱ, and ɱ/ɳ/ɲ/ŋ, mostly because those sounds were unreproducible (at least to the best of my ability) without touching the teeth together. In fact, I managed to eliminate a total of 38 consonants this way:

Note: put in the order I eliminated them in (left to right)

 0|t ʈ d ɖ v ⱱ ɱ ɳ ɲ ŋ|10
11|θ ð z ɮ ʋ ɬ c ʒ ç ʝ|20
21|g ɢ x ɣ χ ʃ r ɾ ɹ ɽ|30
31|ɻ ʀ ʁ q ɸ β ʙ ɰ    |40

So the consonants we have left are:

Note: put in the order they appear in on the IPA chart
+---------------------------+-----------+
|Row 1 (Plosive)            |p b ɟ ʔ    |
|Row 2 (Nasal)              |m n        |
|Row 3 (Trill)              |           |
|Row 4 (Tap/Flap)           |           |
|Row 5 (Fricative)          |f s ħ ʕ h ɦ|
|Row 6 (Lateral Fricative)  |           |
|Row 7 (Approximant)        |j          |
|Row 8 (Lateral Approximant)|l ɭ ʎ ʟ    |
+---------------------------+-----------+

However, when it comes to the vowels, through my testing, I was able to successfully reproduce all 28 distinct vowel sounds without touching the teeth together, so it can probably be said that we can keep all 28.

So altogether, the total of reproducible sounds without using the teeth is 51 (28 vowels and 23 consonants).

However, my question is

Am I correct about there being 28 vowels and 23 consonants that those sounds are reproducible by humanoids without teeth, or what needs to be added/removed to my current list?

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    I'm really curious why some of these got eliminated. What do the teeth have to do with a velar nasal, or a uvular stop? I can pronounce ŋ with my teeth open or closed without making a difference.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 4 at 21:03
  • @Draconis Because I could not find a way to produce those sounds without closing my teeth
    – CrSb0001
    Commented Apr 4 at 21:04

1 Answer 1

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Relatively few sounds actually require the teeth. All dental, labiodental, and interdental sounds do, because the teeth are actually involved in the articulation. But most of the others don't.

Out of the ones you've eliminated, I can pronounce t ʈ d ɖ ɳ ɲ ŋ z c ʒ ç ʝ g ɢ x ɣ χ ʃ r ɾ ɽ ɻ ʀ ʁ q ɸ β ʙ ɰ without using my teeth at all. And some more might be possible if your characters still have gums of some sort; ɮ, for example, doesn't need the teeth specifically, it just needs something solid for the tongue to press against.

Or, to put it more simply, teeth are required for:

  • Dental consonants (like t̪)
  • Interdental consonants (like ð)
  • Labiodental consonants (like f)
  • Lateral fricatives (like ɮ)
  • "Molar" sounds, like my particular pronunciation of ɹ

Everything else can be pronounced just fine without them.

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  • ʋ is by definition labiodental, how are you pronouncing it without your teeth? Are you actually producing a bilabial approximant [β̞]?
    – Tristan
    Commented Apr 8 at 14:33
  • 1
    @Tristan Oops, a bit of overzealous copy-pasting there! You're correct of course, there's no way to pronounce labiodental sounds without teeth.
    – Draconis
    Commented Apr 9 at 1:46

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