Came across this while looking up some information for Chinese dialects.


What do the question marks mean as an IPA symbol?

  • 7
    They're not question marks but glottal stops. Jul 10 '15 at 3:49
  • 1
    Out of curiosity, what topolect is this? I speak standard Cantonese, and our plosive codas all have no audible release, a phenomenon that is said to be due to an overlapping glottal stop (in fact, I've seen our phonotactic constraints characterised as 'a syllable may only end in a nasal sound or the glottal stop...), although I'm not sure if the analysis is accurate (since I don't feel any glottal stop when I articulate those sounds, haha). Jul 10 '15 at 4:28
  • 1
    It does look pretty weird, though! This question has some information about why this symbol was chosen: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/213/… Jul 10 '15 at 4:48
  • 1
    @WavesWashSands It's supposed to be 苏州 topolect/dialect (whichever you prefer).
    – Mou某
    Jul 10 '15 at 4:49
  • @GastonÜmlaut you should write up you comment in to an answer. Jul 10 '15 at 6:11

The IPA symbol that is similar to a question mark is the glottal stop symbol, which indicates the glottal stop phone, a sound made by completely obstructing and then releasing airflow at the glottis. This sound occurs as a phoneme in many languages and is very common as an allophone and/or articulatory artefact in most. In san serif fonts the glottal stop symbol may appear identical to a question mark but without the dot below [ʔ], or have a horizontal serif at the base as in the following:


According to Pullum and Ladusaw (1986, p185) the glottal stop symbol does originally derive from the use of the actual question mark symbol to indicate a glottal stop.

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