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Dorsal consonants are articulated with the mid body of the tongue (the dorsum). They contrast with coronal consonants articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and radical consonants articulated with the root of the tongue.
The dorsum of the tongue can contact a broad region of the roof of the mouth, from the hard palate (so-called palatal consonants), the flexible velum behind that (velar consonants), to the uvula at the back of the mouth cavity (uvular consonants). These distinctions are not clear cut, and sometimes finer gradations such as pre-palatal, pre-velar, and post-velar will be noted.
Because the tip of the tongue can curl back to also contact the hard palate for retroflex consonants, consonants produced by contact between the dorsum and the palate are sometimes called dorso-palatal.
In different languages
The most common pronunciation of the English letter G (as in the garden or to grab) is dorsal, a voiced velar plosive.
The pronunciation of the letters K, Q, and sometimes C (as in the cake or to crawl) is similarly dorsal, a voiceless velar plosive.
- Ladefoged, Peter (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
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