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Go to Unvoiced Icelandic nasals    The velar nasal


Some phoneticians call nasals "nasal stops". This is because in English, as probably in most languages, the ARTICULATORY POSITIONS of the nasals are the same as the stops (plosives) - the only difference is that the nasal passage is open. Here is the diffference between /p/ (nasal passage closed), and /m/ (nasal passage open):

So we can add the nasals to our table of plosives:

  bilabial alveolar velar
fortis plosives
lenis plosives

As we can see, there are three English nasals, one bilabial, one alveolaar, and one velar:

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Unvoicing of Icelandic Nasals

English (and most other languages, in fact) do not UNVOICE nasals; but Icelandic does! Compared to Icelandic, English has a rather meagre inventory of nasals. Icelandic nasals are both voiced and unvoiced, both long and short, and have four articulatory positions (3 in English) - in fact Icelandic has a magnificent family of TEN nasals:

So Icelandic beats English by 10 to 3 on the nasals -
but loses 1 to 6 on the sibilants!

REMEMBER: keep those unvoiced nasals out of English! They sound really strange. Imitate the north Icelandic harðmæli when you speak English - don't unvoice the nasals in front of fortis plosives in words like lamp, mint, think (although Gaelic speakers in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland tend to do this, but you'll need a good Highland accent to carry this off convincingly.)

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The velar nasal Top of page

This sound needs a section to itself.

English occurs

But can also occur without k or g following it, in words like: Icelanders have to be careful here. They also have without k or g necessarily following, BUT NOT IN THE SAME PLACES.

For instance:

'þing', 'hanga' WITH g 'thing', 'hanger' WITHOUT g
'England', 'dingla' WITHOUT g 'England', 'dingle' WITH g

We won't go further into Icelandic here (this is not a course in Icelandic) but let's look at the English rules for when g is or isn't pronounced after .

  1. At the end of words, disapears after - 'sing' , 'bang' , 'wrong'
  2. In the middle of words, disappears after when 'ng' comes at the end of a morpheme () - 'singer' (=sing+er) , 'wrongly' (=wrong+ly),
  3. When 'ng' occurs in in the middle of words where there is no morpheme boundary, DOES NOT disappear after - 'finger' (cannot be split into fing+er) , 'single' (cannot be split into sing+le) (or )
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