A conlang I am working on contains the nasal syllabic consonants [m̩] and [n̩] fairly frequently. It seems like it would be a natural step for the language to develop what I would call a voiced velopharyngeal stop occurring before those syllabic consonants are used some of the time, to add emphasis. This stop is formed by stopping air from flowing into the nasal cavity with the velum while the mouth is in position to form the following consonant, and then releasing it into the nasal cavity. Think of it as trying to make a “g” sound through your nose only.

Ex: [ĩɲ'tⁿn̩] => [ĩɲ't̚?ⁿn̩], where the ? represents the consonant in question.

Note: This is not a glottal stop, though that sound can occur as well in this language.

I have been trying to transcribe the language with the IPA since it helps specify pronunciation of the weird vocabulary of sounds, but I cannot find a symbol in the IPA that represents this sound, even though it seems to me fairly plausible for a language of this type.

The closest I have found is the symbol for a velopharyngeal fricative [ʩ] in extensions to the IPA. However this still is clearly distinct from the sound I am describing. Additionally, it appears to only occur as a speech defect and never as a proper consonant in a language.

What is the best way to transcribe this specific sound using the IPA? Is there an allotted symbol that I just could not find? What would be the best way to go about phonetically transcribing the sound if there is no exact symbol in the IPA? Is there a better approximation than [ʩ]? Additionally, what about the unvoiced counterpart?

I apologize for any mistakes in my use of the IPA, I am still learning.

2 Answers 2


What I think you meant to ask is to create a stop consonant by stopping air flowing through the nasal cavity while the mouth is open, then releasing it only through the nose while the mouth is closed.

The problem is that having no airstream block in the mouth can mean one of two things: producing an oral vowel, such as /a/, or making no sound at all. There isn't a plosive-like sound for stopping air flowing through the nose, as there is with the mouth (in multiple places). The way you can test this is by producing a sound like /aãaãaãa/, in which you are repeatedly stopping the nasal airflow, and yet the vowel sound remains continuous because there is no stop of air in the mouth. So a stop created solely by blocking the nasal passage is impossible.

The example you give for this sound is [ĩɲ't̚?ⁿn̩], where the [?] is supposed to represent the unknown sound. This has a [t̚] with the diacritic for no release after the consonant, and a nasal release [ⁿ] after it. However, there can't possibly be anything between [t̚] and [ⁿ]. The [t̚] means that when the consonant ends, you are still blocking both oral and nasal airflow, and the [ⁿ] means that you are releasing nasal airflow while keeping oral airflow closed. There is no articulation possible in between these: if there were an oral release, the diacritic on [t̚] would have no meaning, and there could no longer be a nasal release [ⁿ] after it. The only possibility is to add another consonant, or extend the [t] as a long consonant [tː], which continues to block all airflow.

Going through your definition, nasal release seems to fit (another possibility that fits just as well is a pre-stopped nasal, if the nasal consonant is supposed to be more prominent than the stop):

This stop is formed by stopping air from flowing into the nasal cavity with the velum

Stopping airflow is a property of a stop consonant. A stop consonant stops the airflow in the mouth as well as the airflow in the nasal cavity. (Stopping only the airflow in the nasal cavity is impossible here, as explained above.)

while the mouth is in position to form the following consonant

Simultaneous articulation is possible, but it depends on what the following consonant is. If the following consonant is in the same place of articulation, that means there's no change.

and then releasing it into the nasal cavity.

Releasing the stop only in the nasal cavity means producing a nasal sound. Nasal release (and nasals in general) would continue to block the airflow in the mouth, but allow it to pass through the nose.

  • I think you’re misunderstanding the explanation. When I say “the mouth is in the position to form the following consonant” I am referring to the n or m, therefore air is stopped in the mouth and nasal cavity, then released only into the nasal cavity. The sound is the opening of the velopharyngeal port. The nasal release in the IPA may be repetitive, but it’s there to precisely specify as much as possible what happens at the question mark.
    – user1254
    Jun 20, 2019 at 23:40
  • @Qeyol Nasal release itself (as well as nasal consonants or vowels in general) is the opening of the velopharyngeal port
    – b a
    Jun 21, 2019 at 9:08
  • Yes, but in this case there is enough pressure behind it that it makes an audibly distinct sound from the “n” or “m”. So I feel the nasal release marking is insufficient.
    – user1254
    Jun 21, 2019 at 12:48
  • @Qeyol Is this conlang meant to be pronounceable by humans?
    – b a
    Jun 21, 2019 at 13:06
  • 1
    No. In a velar nasal the velum is against the tongue blocking airflow into the mouth. Here the velum is against the back of the throat blocking airflow into the nose. Try this: 1) make a “m” sound and hold your mouth in that position, 2) stop airflow into the nasal cavity by pressing the velum against the back of your throat, 3) build up some pressure, 4) release the air with the velum into the nasal cavity to form an “m” consonant again. The sound of the release is what I am trying to describe. You can do the same for “n”.
    – user1254
    Jun 21, 2019 at 18:33

I think I would transcribe this as a kind of pre-stopped nasal where the stop part is velar, like /ᶢn̩/ (and possibly implosive, if I understand your description correctly). Ordinarily, you’d expect it to be homorganic with the following nasal, or influenced by the preceding one. So this seems pretty unstable, in that I don’t know quite how a natural language would get here and stay here. I’d try to reinforce it with another phonological feature, allow an epenthetic vowel, or maybe take it as an opportunity to turn it into a click, for example, in words that lose an initial vowel and end up with this cluster at the beginning of a word/morpheme.

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