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A stop is a kind of consonant during which the flow of air through the mouth is entirely stopped. Thus the term can refer to nasals, though oral stops are usually meant.

Affricates are also be subsumed under stops under the previous definition. The class of oral non-affricate stops is that of plosives.

Table of typical (non-affricate) stops:

Labial Coronal Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Epiglottal Glottal
Voiceless stops p t ʈ c k q ʡ* ʔ*
Voiced stops b d ɖ ɟ g ɢ
Nasal stops m n ɳ ɲ ŋ ɴ N/A N/A

* The IPA symbol for the epiglottal stop has no voicing defined; the voiced/voiceless distinction does not apply to the glottal stop.

Stops in languages

All natural languages have plosives; by far most have at least three out of the four of labial, coronal, velar and glottal. (This is sometimes stated in terms of /p t k ʔ/; however, this does not work in cases where the only labial stop is voiced /b/.)

From this we can sketch out subtypes.

  • Both languages with and without the glottal stop are commonplace.
  • Languages without labial stops are found in the Americas, including Iroquioan languages and Tlingit.
  • Aleut lacks both labial plosives and /ʔ/ (though it does have /m/, and /p b/ occur in Russian loans).
  • Possibly the only language without any coronal stops or affricates is Hawaiian, however even it has /n/. Among the Khoisan languages, N|u bizarrely turns up lacking /t d/. It does have /n ts/.
  • Languages without velar stops are found sparsely, including the pacific Samoan and the Brazilian Xavante.

Nasal stops are also found in most languages. In some, including African languages as well as Amazonian languages like Pirahã, they may be allophonic with oral stops (more rarely, with other sonorants eg. [m] ~ [ɓ], or [n] ~ [l]), and thus, missing phonemically but not phonetically. Tlingit again works as an example where nasals are lacking also phonetically. The same goes for the quite minimal Rotokas.

ANADEW: Pirahã has [m] only as an allophone of /b/, and [k] but possibly not /k/. Winnebago lacks /t/ but has /d/.