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In phonetics, preaspiration (sometimes spelled pre-aspiration)Template:Sfnp is a period of voicelessness or aspiration preceding the closure of a voiceless obstruent,Template:Sfnp basically equivalent to an Template:IPA-like sound preceding the obstruent. In other words, when an obstruent is preaspirated, the glottis is opened for some time before the obstruent closure.Template:Sfnp To mark preaspiration using the International Phonetic Alphabet, the diacritic for regular aspiration, Template:Angbr IPA, can be placed before the preaspirated consonant. However, Template:HarvcoltxtTemplate:Page missing prefer to use a simple cluster notation, e.g. Template:Angbr IPA instead of Template:Angbr IPA.


Preaspiration is comparatively uncommon across languages of the world,Template:Sfnp and is claimed by some to not be phonemically contrastive in any language.Template:Sfnp Template:Harvcoltxt note that, at least in the case of Icelandic, preaspirated stops have a longer duration of aspiration than normally aspirated (post-aspirated) stops, comparable to clusters of Template:IPA+consonant in languages with such clusters. As a result, they view preaspiration as purely a distributional feature, indistinguishable phonetically and phonologically from clusters with Template:IPA, and prefer to notate preaspirated stops as clusters, e.g. Icelandic kappi Template:IPA "hero" rather than Template:IPA.

A distinction is often made between so-called normative and non-normative preaspiration: in a language with normative preaspiration of certain voiceless obstruents, the preaspiration is obligatory even though it is not a distinctive feature; in a language with non-normative preaspiration, the preaspiration can be phonetically structured for those who use it, but it is non-obligatory, and may not appear with all speakers.Template:SfnpTemplate:Sfnp Preaspirated consonants are typically in free variation with spirant-stop clusters, though they may also have a relationship (synchronically and diachronically) with long vowels or Template:IPA-stop clusters.Template:Sfnp

Preaspiration can take a number of different forms; while the most usual is glottal friction (an Template:IPA-like sound), the precise phonetic quality can be affected by the obstruent or the preceding vowel, becoming for example Template:IPA after close vowels;Template:Sfnp other potential realizations include Template:IPATemplate:Sfnp and even Template:IPA.Template:Sfnp

Preaspiration is very unstable both synchronically and diachronically and is often replaced by a fricative or by a lengthening of the preceding vowel.Template:Sfnp


Preaspiration is perhaps best known from North Germanic languages, most prominently in Icelandic and Faroese, but also some dialects of Norwegian and Swedish. It is also a prominent feature of Scottish Gaelic. The presence of preaspiration in Gaelic has been attributed to North Germanic influence.Template:Sfnp Within Northwestern Europe preaspiration is furthermore found in most Sami languages, except Inari Sami where it has been replaced by postaspiration.Template:Sfnp The historical relationship between preaspiration in Sami and North Germanic is disputed: there is general agreement of a connection, but not on whether it represents Sami influence in North Germanic,Template:Sfnp Template:Sfnp North Germanic influence in SamiTemplate:Sfnp or parallel substrate influence in both languages.Template:Sfnp

Elsewhere in the world, preaspiration occurs in Halh Mongolian and in several American Indian languages, including dialects of Cree, Ojibwe, Fox, Miami-Illinois, HopiTemplate:SfnpTemplate:SfnpTemplate:SfnpTemplate:Sfnp and Purepecha.



In certain accents, such as Geordie (among younger women) Template:Harvcoltxt and in some speakers of Dublin English[1] word- and utterance-final Template:IPA can be preaspirated.


Some examples of preaspirated plosives and affricates from Faroese (where they occur only after stressed vowels):

Furthermore, the dialects of Vágar, northern Streymoy and Eysturoy also have ungeminated preaspirated plosives and affricates (except after close vowels/diphthongs):


Some examples of preaspirated plosives from Icelandic (where they occur only after stressed vowels):Template:Sfnp

Huautla Mazatec

In Huautla Mazatec, preaspirates can occur word-initially, perhaps uniquely among languages which contain preaspirates:Template:Sfnp

Sami languages

Preaspiration in the Sami languages occurs on word-medial voiceless stops and affricates of all places of articulation available: Template:IPA. In the Western Sami languages (Southern, Ume, Pite, Lule and Northern) as well as Skolt Sami, preaspiration affects both long and half-long consonants; in most Eastern Sami languages (Akkala, Kildin and Ter) only fully long consonants are preaspirated. This likely represents two waves of innovation: an early preaspiration of long consonants dating back to Proto-Sami, followed by a secondary preaspiration of half-long consonants that originated in the Western Sami area and spread eastwards to Skolt Sami.Template:Sfnp

In several Sami languages, preaspirated stops/affricates contrast with lax voiceless stops, either due to denasalization of earlier clusters (e.g. *nt > Template:IPA) or in connection to consonant gradation.

Scottish Gaelic

In Scottish Gaelic, however, due to the historical loss of voiced stops preaspiration is phonemic in medial and final positions after stressed vowels.Template:Sfnp

The approximate distribution of preaspiration in Gaelic dialects

Its strength varies from area to area and can manifest itself as Template:IPA or Template:IPA or in areas with strong preaspiration as Template:IPA or Template:IPA. The occurrence of preaspiration follows a hierarchy of c > t > p; i.e. if a dialect has preaspiration with p, it will also have it in the other places of articulation. Preaspiration manifests itself as follows:[2]

There are numerous minimal pairs:


Although distinguishing preaspirated consonants from clusters of /Template:IPAlink/ and a voiceless consonant can be difficult, the reverse does not hold: there are numerous languages such as Arabic or Finnish where such clusters are unanimously considered to constitute consonant clusters.[citation needed]

See also


  1. "Glossary". Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  2. Ó Dochartaigh, C. Survey of the Gaelic Dialects of Scotland I-V Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1997) Page Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css has no content.ISBN 1-85500-165-9