In phonetics, a uvular sound is one pronounced by bringing the back of the tongue up to the uvula. If there is complete closure the sound is the uvular stop [q], which is like a [k] but further back in the throat, and which occurs in a number of languages all across the world: Arabic and many influenced by it or related to it; and Inuktitut; and Georgian and other Caucasian languages.

Usually only the voiceless sound occurs. The voiced one, a far-back G, is for some reason extremely rare. Certain Mayan languages have it; it can occur in some pronunciations of Persian; I know of no other examples. Personally I find it quite as easy to say as [q].

The uvular nasal is also extremely rare. It occurs in Inuktitut, as in the first consonant of eNina 'melody'.

The most familiar uvular consonant is the voiced fricative used for the pronunciation of R in French. A weaker, less fricative, but still uvular sound is used for R in German and Danish. This originated in France and spread to neighbouring languages; its progress can to some extent be tracked.

An alternative form of the French R, though extremely similar acoustically, is a uvular roll. This involves rolling (trilling) the little dangly thing. Presumably the French R switched from a normal lingual roll to a uvular roll at some point, then switched again to a uvular fricative as easier to make.

U"vu*lar (?), a. Anat.

Of or pertaining to a uvula.

 

© Webster 1913.

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