Voiced labial–palatal approximant
The voiced labial–palatal (or labio-palatal) approximant is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It has two constrictions in the vocal tract: with the tongue on the palate, and rounded at the lips. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɥ⟩, a rotated lowercase letter ⟨h⟩, or occasionally ⟨jʷ⟩, which indicates [j] with a different kind of rounding.
The labial–palatal approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the close front rounded vowel [y]. They alternate with each other in certain languages, such as French, and in the diphthongs of some languages, ⟨ɥ⟩ and ⟨y̑⟩ with the non-syllabic diacritic are used in different transcription systems to represent the same sound. Sometimes, ⟨y̆⟩ is written in place of ⟨y̑⟩, even though the former symbol denotes an extra-short [y] in the official IPA.
Some languages, though, have a palatal approximant that is unspecified for rounding, and therefore cannot be considered the semivocalic equivalent of either [y] or its unrounded counterpart [i]. An example of such language is Spanish, in which the labialized palatal approximant (not a semivowel) appears allophonically with rounded vowels in words such as ayuda [aˈʝ̞ʷuð̞a] 'help'. According to some sources, is not correct to transcribe this with the symbol ⟨ɥ⟩, which has a different kind of rounding, or with ⟨jʷ⟩, which implies spread lips; the only suitable transcription is ⟨ʝ̞ʷ⟩. See palatal approximant for more information.
Especially in broad transcription, the labialized postpalatal approximant may be transcribed as a palatalized and labialized velar approximant (⟨wʲ⟩ in the IPA,
w_j in X-SAMPA).
The compressed palatal approximant is typically transcribed in IPA simply as ⟨ɥ⟩, and that is the convention used in this article. There is no dedicated diacritic for compression in the IPA. However, the compression of the lips can be shown with the letter ⟨β̞⟩ as ⟨j͡β̞⟩ (simultaneous [j] and labial compression) or ⟨jᵝ⟩ ([j] modified with labial compression). The spread-lip diacritic ⟨ ͍ ⟩ may also be used with a labialized approximant letter ⟨ɥ͍⟩ as an ad hoc symbol, though technically 'spread' means unrounded.
The compressed post-palatal approximant can be transcribed simply as ⟨ɥ̈⟩ (centralized [ɥ]), and that is the convention used in this article. Other possible transcriptions include ⟨j̈ᵝ⟩ (centralized [j] modified with labial compression) and ⟨ɥ͍̈⟩ (centralized [ɥ] with the spread-lip diacritic).
Because the labialized palatal approximant is assumed to have compression, and few descriptions cover the distinction, some examples in the table below may actually have protrusion.
As there are no diacritics in the IPA to distinguish protruded and compressed rounding, an old diacritic for labialization, ⟨ ̫⟩, will be used here as an ad hoc symbol for the protruded palatal approximant. Another possible transcription is ⟨ɥʷ⟩ or ⟨jʷ⟩ (a palatal approximant modified by endolabialization).
Acoustically, this sound is "between" the more typical compressed palatal approximant [ɥ] and the non-labialized palatal approximant [j].