The Nasal Ingressive Voiceless Velar Fricative Explained

The Speculative Grammarian (SpecGram) is the “premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics.” That’s a joke that’s not funny if I have to explain it.

The Speculative Grammarian, however, is full of jokes that are funny only to linguists, satirical or otherwise. As part of Language Rush’s efforts to demystify the world of linguistics, I will attempt a quixotic quest: I will try to make a SpecGram joke funnier by explaining it.

For years now, SpecGram has been campaigning for the inclusion of the double-dot wide O, representing the nasal ingressive voiceless velar fricative, in the International Phonetics Alphabet chart:

Double-dot wide O (credit to the Speculative Grammarian)

Double-dot wide O (credit to the Speculative Grammarian)

What is the nasal ingressive voiceless velar fricative?

Let’s break this down: remember that consonant sounds are defined by six features: voicing/phonation, place of articulation, manner of articulation, nasality, laterality, and airstream mechanism.

  • voicing: voiceless
  • place of articulation: velar
  • manner of articulation: fricative
  • nasality: not specified
  • laterality: not specified
  • airstream mechanism: nasal ingressive

The nasal ingressive airstream mechanism

Remember from the airstream mechanism post that there are four attested airstream mechanisms:

  • pulmonic egressive
  • glottalic egressive
  • glottalic ingressive
  • lingual/velaric ingressive

Err. What about the nasal ingressive system?

Airstream mechanisms are specified by what initiates or triggers the airstream (the lungs, the glottis or the tongue), and the direction of the airstream (out of the vocal tract, or into it).

In the nasal ingressive airstream mechanism, air goes into the nose to create a sound. Simple.

Implications for other consonantal features

You’ll notice that two of the six features of consonants aren’t specified.

Remember that the consonant features we’ve looked at in the Articulatory Phonetics 101 series are a model, and reality does not fit perfectly into models. The map is not the territory. The nasal ingressive airstream mechanism fits our existing model imperfectly, and some of the features aren’t as relevant when the nasal ingressive airstream mechanism is employed:

  • Since air goes through the nasal cavity, a nasal ingressive consonant is nasal by default.
  • Since air doesn’t flow over the tongue in a nasal ingressive consonant, the central/lateral distinction is not applicable.

How do I produce this consonant?

The nasal ingressive voiceless velar fricative, then, is a consonant in which air is drawn into the nose and creates a frication at the velum, with no vibration of the vocal folds.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to producing this sound:

  • Open your mouth for airflow. We don’t want a vacuum forming in your oral cavity when the velum vibrates.
  • Breathe in sharply, through your nose only. Do this a few times to get the hang of it.
  • While breathing in, open your mouth and raise the velum slightly. This constricts the airstream in the pharynx, fricating the airstream slightly.

Here’s a video of Jelly performing the nasal ingressive velar fricative (Jelly’s particular version includes a considerable uvular trill, which SpecGram argues is a different sound). Check it to see if you’ve done it right:

And that, my friends, is how linguists describe a pig snort.

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