Bilabial trill

The bilabial trill is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the sound is ʙ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B\.

Bilabial trill
IPA Number121
Entity (decimal)ʙ
Unicode (hex)U+0299
Audio sample
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In many of the languages in which the bilabial trill occurs, it occurs only as part of a prenasalized bilabial stop with trilled release, [mbʙ]. That developed historically from a prenasalized stop before a relatively high back vowel like [mbu]. In such instances, the sounds are usually still limited to the environment of a following [u]. However, the trills in Mangbetu may precede any vowel and are sometimes preceded by only a nasal.

A few languages, such as Mangbetu of Congo and Ninde of Vanuatu, have both a voiced and a voiceless bilabial trill.[1][2]

There is also a very rare voiceless alveolar bilabially trilled affricate, [t̪͡ʙ̥] (written tᵖ̃ in Everett & Kern) reported from Pirahã and from a few words in the Chapacuran languages Wari’ and Oro Win. The sound also appears as an allophone of the labialized voiceless alveolar stop /tʷ/ of Abkhaz and Ubykh, but in those languages it is more often realised by a doubly articulated stop [t͡p]. In the Chapacuran languages, [tʙ̥] is reported almost exclusively before rounded vowels such as [o] and [y].


Features of the bilabial trill:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Kele[3] [ᵐʙulim] 'face'
Komi-Permyak[4] [ʙuɲgag] 'dung beetle' Generally paralinguistic. This is the only true word it is found in.
Lizu[5][6] [tʙ̩˥˩] 'bean' Syllabic; allophone of /u/ after initial /pʰ, p, b, tʰ, t, d/.[5]
Medumba [mʙʉ́] 'dog'
Ngwe Lebang dialect [àʙɨ́ ́] 'ash'
Nias simbi [siʙi] 'lower jaw'
Pirahã kaoáíbogi [kàò̯áí̯ʙòˈɡì] 'evil spirit' Allophone of /b/ before /o/
Pumi[6] [pʙ̩˥] 'to dig' Syllabic; allophone of /ə/ after /pʰ, p, b, tʰ, t, d/.
Titan[3] [ᵐʙutukei] 'wooden plate'
Unua[7] [ᵐʙue] 'pig'
Sangtam [t ͡ʙʰʌ ̀][8] 'plate' Phonemic, as /t ͡ʙ/, found in /t ͡ʙaŋ/ 'needle'[8]

The Knorkator song "[Buchstabe]" (the actual title is a glyph) on the 1999 album Hasenchartbreaker uses a similar sound to replace "br" in a number of German words (e.g. [ˈʙaːtkaʁtɔfəln] for Bratkartoffeln).

In New Guinea, the bilabial trill is found in Kwomtari and Sko languages, as well as in the Kilmeri language.[9] In Vanuatu, it is found in the Ahamb language.[10]

See also


  1. Linguist Wins Symbolic Victory for 'Labiodental Flap'. NPR (2005-12-17). Retrieved on 2010-12-08.
  2. LINGUIST List 8.45: Bilabial trill. Retrieved on 2010-12-08.
  3. Ladefoged (2005:165)
  4. Wichmann, Yrjö; Uotila, T. E. (1942). Syrjänischer Wortschatz nebst Hauptzügen der Formenlehre. Helsinki: Suomalais-Ugrilainen Seura.
  5. Chirkova & Chen (2013:78)
  6. Chirkova, Katia (2012). "The Qiangic Subgroup from an Areal Perspective: A Case Study of Languages of Muli" (Archive). In Languages and Linguistics 13(1):133-170. Taipei: Academia Sinica.
  7. Dimock (2005:19)
  8. Coupe, Alexander (2016), "Prestopped bilabial trills in Sangtam", Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Glasgow, 10-14 August 2015.
  9. Foley, William A. (2018). "The Languages of the Sepik-Ramu Basin and Environs". In Palmer, Bill (ed.). The Languages and Linguistics of the New Guinea Area: A Comprehensive Guide. The World of Linguistics. 4. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 197–432. ISBN 978-3-11-028642-7.
  10. Rangelov, Tihomir (2019). The bilabial trills of Ahamb (Vanuatu): acoustic and articulatory properties.


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