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A dental consonant is a consonant articulated with the tongue against the upper teeth, such as /t/, /d/, /n/, and /l/ in some languages. Dentals are primarily distinguished from sounds in which contact is made with the tongue and the gum ridge, as in English (see Alveolar consonant), due to the acoustic similarity of the sounds and the fact that in the Roman alphabet they are generally written using the same symbols (t, d, n, and so on).
For many languages, such as Albanian, Irish or Russian, velarization is generally associated with more dental articulations of coronal consonants so that velarized consonants (such as Albanian /ɫ/) tend to be dental or denti-alveolar while non-velarized consonants tend to be retracted to an alveolar position.
Sanskrit, Hindi and all other Indic languages have an entire set of dental plosives which occur phonemically as voiced and voiceless, and with or without aspiration. The nasal stop /n/ also exists in these languages, but is quite alveolar and apical in articulation.[How to reference and link to summary or text] To the Indian speaker, the alveolar /t/ and /d/ of English sound more like the corresponding retroflex consonants of his own language than like the dentals.[How to reference and link to summary or text]Spanish /t/ and /d/ are laminal denti-alveolar while /l/ and /n/ are prototypically alveolar but assimilate to the place of articulation of a following consonant. Likewise, Italian /t/, /d/, /t͡s/, /d͡z/ are denti-alveolar ([t̪], [d̪], [t̪͡s̪], and [d̪͡z̪] respectively) and /l/ and /n/ become denti-alveolar before a following dental consonant.
Although denti-alveolar consonants are often described as dental, it is the rear-most point of contact that is most relevant, for this is what defines the maximum acoustic space of resonance and will give a consonant its characteristic sound. In the case of French, the rear-most contact is alveolar or sometimes slightly pre-alveolar.
Dental consonants in the world's languages
The dental/denti-alveolar consonants as transcribed by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:
- Ladefoged, Peter (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
- Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
- Recasens, Daniel; Espinosa, Aina (2005), "Articulatory, positional and coarticulatory characteristics for clear /l/ and dark /l/: evidence from two Catalan dialects", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 1–25, doi:10.1017/S0025100305001878
- Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117–121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
International Phonetic Alphabet
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