Labiodental flap

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Labiodental flap
IPA number 184
Entity (decimal) ⱱ
Unicode (hex) U+2C71
Braille ⠖ (braille pattern dots-235) ⠧ (braille pattern dots-1236)

In phonetics, the labiodental flap is a speech sound found primarily in languages of Central Africa, such as Kera and Mangbetu. It has also been reported in the Austronesian language Sika.[1] It is one of the few non-rhotic flaps. The sound begins with the lower lip placed behind the upper teeth. The lower lip is then flipped outward, striking the upper teeth in passing.[2]


The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨⟩, which resembles Cyrillic izhitsa, ⟨ѵ⟩, but is composed of a vee and the hook of the flap ⟨ɾ⟩. In 2005, the International Phonetic Association, responding to Dr. Kenneth S. Olson's request for its adoption, voted to include a symbol for this sound, and selected a v with a right hook.[3] This symbol is a combination of ⟨v⟩ + ⟨ɾ⟩ (the letters for the voiced labiodental fricative and the alveolar flap). As of version 5.1.0, the Unicode character set encodes this character at U+2C71 (ⱱ). In earlier literature, it is often transcribed by a v modified by the extra-short diacritic, ⟨⟩,[4] following a 1989 recommendation of the International Phonetic Association.[5] Another historic symbol for this sound was v with curl ⟨ⱴ⟩, which had been employed in articles from the School of Oriental and African Studies, by Joseph Greenberg,[6] and others.[7]


The labiodental flap is found primarily in Africa, in as many as a few hundred languages found in the Chadic family (Margi, Tera), Ubangian (Ngbaka, Ma'bo, Sera), Central Sudanic (Mangbetu, Kresh), and Bantoid (Ngwe, some Shona dialects). It is extremely rare outside Africa, though it has been reported from Sika in Flores.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Bana[8] [ɡə̀ⱱéŋ] 'fishhook' Mainly restricted to ideophones, and between high central vowels.[9] Contrasts with /v/.[10]
Kera [ⱱə̃ə̃ti] 'push your head out of a hole or out of water' Since most of the lexical items are ideophones, it is not definitively the case that the labial flap has been fully incorporated into the phonological system of Kera.[11]
Mangbetu [tɛⱱɛ] 'ten'
[nɛⱱjàⱱjá] 'black bird'
Mono[12] vwa [ⱱa] 'send' Contrasts with /v/ and /w/. In free variation with bilabial flap
Sika [ⱱoːtɛr] 'I stand a pole in the ground' Contrasts with /v/ and /β/. May also be realized as [b̪]

The bilabial flap [ⱳ] is a variant of the labiodental flap in several languages, including Mono. This sound involves striking the upper lip rather than the upper teeth. The two sounds are not known to contrast in any language; the term labial flap can be used as a broader description encompassing both sounds.[13]

In Sika, the flap is heard in careful pronunciation, but it may also be realized as a voiced labiodental stop, [b̪], or an affricate. It contrasts with both a bilabial and a labiodental fricative:[14]

[ⱱoːtɛr] "I stand a pole in the ground"
[βotɛːr] "I buy"
[voːtɛr] "We (inclusive) buy"



  • Hofmann, Erica (1990). A Preliminary Phonology of Bana (PDF) (M.A. thesis). University of Victoria. OCLC 27946722. 
  • International Phonetic Association (1989), "Report on the 1989 Kiel Convention", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 19 (2): 67–80, doi:10.1017/S0025100300003868 
  • International Phonetic Association (2005), "IPA news", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 261–262, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002227 
  • Olson, Kenneth S; Hajek, John (1999), "The phonetic status of the labial flap", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 29 (2): 101–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006484 
  • Olson, Kenneth S; Hajek, John (2003), "Crosslinguistic insights on the labial flap", Linguistic Typology, 7 (2): 157–186, doi:10.1515/lity.2003.014 
  • Olson, Kenneth S; Hajek, John (2004), "A crosslinguistic lexicon of the labial flap", Linguistic Discovery, 2 (2): 21–57, doi:10.1349/ps1.1537-0852.a.262 
  • Olson, Kenneth S. (2004), "Mono" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (02): 233–238, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001744 

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