Voiceless labial-velar stop

The voiceless labial–velar stop is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It is a [k] and [p] pronounced simultaneously. To make this sound, say Coe, but close your lips as if you were saying Poe; release your lips at the same time as, or a fraction of a second after, you pronounce the C of Coe. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨k͡p⟩.

The voiceless labial–velar stop is found in Vietnamese and various languages in West and Central Africa. In Yoruba it is written with a simple ⟨p⟩.


Features of the voiceless labial–velar stop:

  • Its manner of articulation is occlusive, which means it is produced by obstructing airflow in the vocal tract. Since the consonant is also oral, with no nasal outlet, the airflow is blocked entirely, and the consonant is a stop.
  • Its place of articulation is labial–velar, which means it is simultaneously articulated with the lips and with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the velum). The dorsal closure is made and released slightly before the labial closure, but they overlap for most of their duration.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Ega[1] [k͡pá] 'build a hedge to enclose a field'
Kalabari[2] àkpà [àk͡pà] 'bag'
Mono[3] kpa [k͡pa] 'flee'
Vietnamese[4] c [luk͡p˧ˀ˥] 'time' Allophone of /k/ after /u/ and /w/. See Vietnamese phonology.

Rounded variant

Some languages, especially in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu, combine this voiceless labial–velar stop with a labial–velar approximant release, hence [k͡pʷ]. Thus Mwotlap (Banks Islands, north Vanuatu) has [k͡pʷɪlɣɛk] ('my father-in-law').[5]

In the Banks Islands languages which have it, the phoneme /k͡pʷ/ is written ⟨q⟩ in local orthographies. In other languages of Vanuatu further south (such as South Efate, or Lenakel(fr)), the same segment is spelled ⟨⟩.

See also



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