Voiceless labial-velar approximant

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Pulmonic Consonant
IPA: ʍ
Place of Articulation: Velar bilabial
Manner of Articulation: approximant
Phonological features: [-consonantal]

This is a devoiced bilabial velar approximate. It's voiced form is /w/.



Old English

In Old English it was spelt Hw. An example might be the first line of Beowulf "Hwæt we Gar-Dena...." Other Anglo-Saxon words had this spelling, such as Hwær (where). Hwam (whom), Hwalas (whales), Hwon (who), Hwi (why). etc.

Middle English

This sound had three different spellings in Medieval English, but the most common was wh. In the earliest days, in such works as Brut we see that they prefer Anglo-Saxon spelling, so hw is most common. In works which have a heavy Old French influence it is common to see qu instead of the others, because qu /kw/ is the closest sounds French equivalent. Geoffrey Chaucer, being one of the most influential to standardised English, used wh.

Modern English

Most people who speak English today now use /w/ instead of the /ʍ/. Some Dialects in the Northwest of the United States and quite a few Scottish accents still use it. Also many English speaks come close when they add a devoiced sound next to it, so 'twas, quest, sweet, and others have semi-devoiced /ʍ/s in them.

Old Norse

In Old Norse, a cognate sound was spelt hv and was used in cases similar to the Old English words. However, since it is reflected as /hv/ in East Scandinavian, /kv/ in Icelandic, and it derives from Proto-Germanic *xw, it should not be taken as [ʍ], but rather as a cluster [xv] or [xʋ].




Back to IPA. Page written by Timothy Patrick Snyder