I use narrow phonetic transcription in my job. The one symbol I need but can't seem to find is a way to mark stretching of the tongue from side to side. Does this exist? I have made up my own, but I'd rather use a standard symbol if possible.

  • Is this for transcription of disordered speech, or for some other use? Also, by "stretching the tongue from side to side" do you mean flattening/broadening the lamina, wagging the tip left and right, or something else? Commented May 17, 2019 at 14:40
  • The way I interpreted it at first glance was "stretching" the sides of the tongue so that the air does not escape, as in [d], unlike in [l], but that of course changes the manner of articulation, thus entirely different symbols would have to be employed.
    – Nardog
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:09
  • 1
    I work with non-native speakers of American English. For example, in the word "understand," I have a lot of students from China who slightly broaden the tongue (widening toward the side teeth) when producing the first vowel.
    – Jane
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:19
  • @Jane Ah, so flattening the lamina?
    – Draconis
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:31
  • I think widening/broadening probably describes it best, but I think we are talking about the same thing.
    – Jane
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


To my knowledge there is no official (or even conventional) symbol to describe that gesture. If I had to pick a symbol to describe "tongue spreading", I might pick U+20E1: combining left-right arrow above. Here it is on a schwa: ə⃡

I would choose that because U+034D (combining left-right arrow below) is used in the IPA extension for disordered speech to describe lip spreading, so there's a natural parallel there.

  • U+20E1 is "COMBINING LEFT RIGHT ARROW ABOVE", not below, i.e. the superior version of U+034D. I wouldn't use it to describe a lingual gesture precisely because the inferior version is used to denote lip spreading in extIPA.
    – Nardog
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 22:18
  • @Nardog thanks for catching the above/below typo, I've corrected it. Not sure I understand your objection though: lots of diacritics have different semantics when superior vs. inferior; extIPA even seems to do this quasi-systematically (e.g. superior/inferior combining "bridge" indicating involvement of upper/lower teeth, respectively).
    – drammock
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 0:10
  • I'm having trouble seeing the symbols in your responses (I'm sure it's a problem on my end), but I was able to look up the codes. Thanks so much for the description and information. U+20E1 is exactly what I'm using! Do you have any sites I can look at with more detailed information on diacritics?
    – Jane
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 0:49
  • @Jane I use r12a.github.io/pickers/ipa a lot. Aside from the click-copy-paste functionality, note the tools in the upper right (esp. "show codepoints") and at the bottom ("add code points" and "search for"). If you're looking for usage information, though, it won't help.
    – drammock
    Commented May 18, 2019 at 19:06

It's not clear what you mean by "stretching the tongue from side to side". You can do that with your fingers (if you have a dry tongue), but otherwise it's not possible -- the tongue doesn't stretch that way. There is no symbol to denote this, since the situation you're describing does not exist. Presumably you mean something else -- we'd have to know what you're referring to.

Based on the comments, it appears that the question is about laminal sounds, which are notated with the diacritic ̻ . Although it is usually added to consonants, nothing in principle prevents using it on a vowel. The Tarama variety of Miyako Ryukyuan is said to have such vowels, and perhaps some Wu varieties of Chinese have them.

  • 2
    This should be a comment ... Commented May 17, 2019 at 8:12
  • 3
    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review Commented May 17, 2019 at 8:12
  • @jknappen, The question asks "Does this exist?" The answer is "No." I don't see a problem with this answer.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 18:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.