Spoken French has two ingressive forms of "yes". One is "ouais" [wɛ↓], equivalent to "yep" in English. The other is a "pure" ingressive sound, described sometimes as a "fast gasp", and is equivalent to "Yeah, uh-huh" in English. Would [h↓] be the most correct way to represent this in IPA?

Edit: Corrected symbol order as per comment.

Edit 2: Added external reference to description of "fast gasp".

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    It looks like the IPA symbol is to be put after the ingressive sound, not before it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingressive_sound
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 12, 2020 at 20:39
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    Yup, that sounds like [hꜜ] to me, now that there’s an audio recording included. Jul 16, 2020 at 18:39
  • Janus, how about editing this and some of your other comments into an answer? Jul 17, 2020 at 21:58

1 Answer 1


I don't know why you want them to be "ingressive"?
I would describe the second yes as [n̩̊] a voiceless syllabic nasal.
It seems that the IPA does not provide diacritics for that kind of sounds which are pronounced without opening the mouth.
French also has [m̩̊] to mean "looks good (to eat)".

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    Also, the ouais described in the question definitely is ingressive, conforming quite nicely to the typologically common concept of words meaning ‘yes’ or ‘no’ having possible ingressive variants frequently used in casual speech. English yeah and yup have such ingressive variants as well, though they’re not common in all dialects. A simple intake of air [hꜜ] is equally common as a sign of agreement or encouragement, and I don’t see why this shouldn’t be the case for French also. Jul 15, 2020 at 8:03
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    I don’t hear any unvoiced [m̩̊]’s in that clip at all. If you’re talking about the very beginning when she says, “Mmm, c’est très délicieuse…”, that is very audibly a fully voiced [m̩ːː], not an unvoiced one. There is plenty of vibration here – if there weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to hear her voice at all as she says it. If you close your mouth and blow air out of your nose (like when blowing your nose when you have a cold), that is an unvoiced [m̩̊]. This video has some examples with sound: m.youtube.com/watch?v=CcSsEbwyBFk (sadly none syllabic, only as /m̥a ~ am̥/). Jul 15, 2020 at 22:44
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    That too is fully voiced. An unvoiced [n̩̊] is what you get in many languages (certainly English, I think French too) when you scoff derisively at someone, often transcribed ‘hmph’ or similarly. Sometimes there’s voicing in the latter part of that sound, but it starts off voiceless (so it’s [n̥͡n] or something like that). The encouraging ‘mmm’ or ‘nnn’ in the Cage aux folles clip, conversely, is completely voiced throughout. Jul 15, 2020 at 22:59
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    I can’t find anyone talking specifically about ingressive [hꜜ] in French, but I did find a video about a guy talking about ingressive ouais (“ouais inspiré” as he calls it) as a pet peeve – you can hear very clearly there what sound the question is talking about: youtu.be/YVwbxp1FyiE. Jul 15, 2020 at 23:10
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    Of course it doesn’t need to be – that wasn’t what the question meant to imply either, I’m sure. But an ingressive variant does exist, and (though I don’t recall hearing it), I don’t doubt that the other ingressive marker of encouragement/agreement mentioned is also used at least by some French speakers. Jul 16, 2020 at 7:37

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