Postalveolar consonants are consonants
articulated with the tongue near or touching the back
of the alveolar
ridge, placing them a bit further back in the mouth
than the alveolar
consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not
as far back as the hard palate
(the place of articulation for palatal
Among the fricatives
a subtype called palato-alveolar consonants (see
below) are shown with examples in the table. The alveolo-palatal
consonants are also postalveolar in their point of articulation,
but they are given separate columns in the IPA chart,
and illustrated with examples in their own articles.
The palato-alveolar sibilants
and postalveolar clicks identified by the International
Phonetic Alphabet are:
Types of postalveolar fricatives
The difference between palato-alveolar, alveolo-palatal,
retroflex, and several other articulations is in
the shape of the tongue rather than the location of the
contact with the roof of the mouth. All are postalveolar
in that sense.
variable in tongue shape is whether the contact occurs
with the very tip of the tongue (an "apical"
with the surface just above the tip, called the blade
of the tongue (a "laminal"
or with the underside of the tip (a "sub-apical"
articulation). Laminal articulations are often palatal,
but may have postalveolar allophones.
A second variable is the amount of raising of the tongue
behind this point of contact, which amounts to a degree
From least to most palatalized, the attested possibilities
are flat [s̠],
bunched-up or domed palato-alveolar [ʃ],
and alveolo-palatal [ɕ].
Of course, these possibilities may all be voiced
as well: [z̠,
There is an additional postalveolar articulation found
languages such as Ubyx:
the tip of the tongue rests against the lower teeth so
that there is no sublingual cavity. Ladefoged has called
this a "closed laminal postalveolar" articulation;
Catford describes the fricatives as "hissing-hushing"
sounds, and transcribes them as [ŝ,
ẑ] (note: this is not IPA notation).
Presumably this "closed" articulation may be combined
with the other two as a third variable, but this is not
The attested possibilities, with exemplar languages,
are as follows. Note that the IPA diacritics are simplified;
some articulations would require two diacritics to be
fully specified, but only one is used in order to keep
the results legible without the need for OpenType
IPA fonts. Also, Ladefoged
has resurrected an obsolete IPA symbol, the under dot,
to indicate apical postalveolar (normally included
in the category of retroflex
consonants), and that notation is used here. (Note
that the notation s̠,
ṣ is sometimes reversed; either may also
be called 'retroflex' and written ʂ.)
||Place of articulation
||laminal flat postalveolar (laminal retroflex)
sh, zh, ch, Polish
sz, rz, cz, ż
||apical postalveolar (apical retroflex)
||domed postalveolar (palato-alveolar)
sh, zh (may be either laminal or apical)
||laminal domed postalveolar
||laminal palatalized postalveolar (alveolo-palatal)
||Mandarin q, j, x, Polish ć, ś, ź, dź,
||laminal closed postalveolar
||sub-apical postalveolar or palatal (sub-apical retroflex)
Some languages which distinguish "dental" vs. "alveolar"
stops have something closer to prealveolar and postalveolar.
Such is the case for Malayalam
speakers who trill both of that language's rhotics:
Since these are trills and therefore both apical, the
latter is usually termed retroflex.
However, in some non-standard forms of Malayalam, there
is a laminal postalveolar nasal that contrasts with apical
alveolar, palatal, and subapical retroflex nasals: m
n̟ n͇ n̠ ɳ ɲ ŋ.