Definitions

bilabial stops

Labial consonant

Labials are consonants articulated either with both lips (bilabial articulation) or with the lower lip and the upper teeth (labiodental articulation). English [m] is a bilabial nasal sonorant, [b] and [p] are bilabial stops (plosives), [v] and [f] are labiodental fricatives.

Bilabial fricatives and the bilabial approximant do not exist in standard English, but do occur in many languages. For example, the Spanish consonant spelt b or v is pronounced as a voiced bilabial approximant between vowels.

Lip rounding, or labialisation can also accompany other articulations. English /w/ is a labialised velar approximant.

Labial consonants are divided into two subplaces of articulation:

Very few languages, however, make a distinction on purely this basis. One example is Ewe, with both kinds of fricatives. For by far the most other languages in the world, labial by itself is a sufficient phonemic specification. Whether the sounds will actually be bilabial or labiodental depends on the language, but the most common pattern is that exhibited in English: bilabial stops and nasals, labiodental fricatives.

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