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September 19, 2014

Word of the Day

  • velar
  • audio pronunciation
  • \VEE-ler\
  • DEFINITION

adjective

1 : formed with the back of the tongue touching or near the soft palate 2 : of, forming, or relating to a velum and especially the soft palate

  • EXAMPLE

The word "keg" contains two velar consonants, "k" and "g."

"Those throat-clearing sounds you hear in German? That's the voiceless velar fricative, and it adds a wonderful percussiveness to '99 Luftbalons.' English speakers don't have it; it's one reason the Anglicized version of Nena's 1984 hit falls flat." — William Weir, Slate, November 8, 2012

  • DID YOU KNOW?

Velar is ultimately derived from Latin velum (meaning "curtain" or "veil"), which was itself adopted into English by way of New Latin as a word for the soft palate (the fold at the back of the hard palate—palate, by the way, refers to the roof of the mouth—that partially separates the mouth from the pharynx). Velar is used by phonologists to refer to the position of the tongue in relation to the soft palate when making certain sounds. Other terms for what phonologists refer to as "places of articulation" are palatal (tongue against the roof of the mouth), dental (tongue against the upper teeth), and alveolar (tongue against the inner surface of the gums of the upper front teeth).

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