Robert Eklund’s Ingressive Phonation & Speech Page

Updated: 22 July 2015

This page is devoted to pulmonic ingressive phonation/speech, i.e. sounds produced on pulmonic (lung) airstream. This page is constantly updated as new sources appear. Most of what I have found out about ingressive so far is accounted for in the journal article published in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association (JIPA) listed below. Section 3 below accompanies the JIPA article (2008), and besides sounds files that correspond to the eleven spectrograms in the JIPA paper, a contents list is provided in order to provide a general overview of what the paper covers. Contributions are encouraged and welcome.


Purring cheetah spectrogram

Spectrogram of a purring cheetah

01  Introduction
02  Distribution
03  JIPA companion
04  Sound files – Humans
05  Sound files – Animals
06  Own publications and presentations
07  Radio interviews
08  Bibliography
09  Contact
10  Robert Eklund’s homepage

01  Introduction

Pulmonic ingressive speech is when speakers produce language – sounds, single words, or even entire phrases – while breathing in. A common notion is that this is typically Scandinavian, but after spent eight years perusing approximately 500 works that mention ingressive speech, and span from 1657 to the present day, another picture emerges. Ingressive phonation has been used as a deliberate means of speech or sound production for hundreds of years in order to achieve specific effects, and it is still used for the same purposes, by e.g. shamans and ventriloquists. In normal spoken and spontaneous conversation – contrary to what is often claimed – present-day ingressive speech is not limited to Scandinavia or Nordic languages, but is instead found on all continents, in genetically unrelated languages. Where ingressive speech occurs, it serves more or less the same paralinguistic functions, such as a feedback marker in a dialog. Since pulmonic ingressive phonation is also common in the calls of monkeys and apes, thus exhibiting a biological basis, Eklund (2007; [47] below) suggests that ingressive speech might constitute a neglected universal phenomenon, rather than being “highly marked”, which is how it is commonly described in the literature.

02  Distribution

The map below — taken from Eklund (2007, p. 23; see below) — shows the distribution of ingressive speech in the world. New sources are constantly being found, so the map will change over time to include new countries and regions. Most recent update: 22 July 2015.

Ingressive speech distribution


Ingressive nonlinguistic sounds

Ingressive phonation mentioned, for e.g., pain or surprise.

Ingressive linguistic sounds

Paralinguistic sounds used, e.g., Japanese hiss.

Ingressive words

Single words are pronounced ingressively, e.g., Swedish “ja”, “jadå”.

Ingressive phrases

Entire phrases are produced ingressively, e.g., Argentine Spanish “un trabajo matador”.

Ingressive areas

Star symbol used for areas too small to be filled in (e.g., Malta, Vanuatu, Faroe Islands).

Ingressive unclear regions

Sources unclear/not explicit whether entire country/region is implied.

03  JIPA companion

This section accompanies the 2008 JIPA article, i.e. publication [49]. Basically, it provides the sound files that correspond to the eleven spectrograms in the paper, and also includes a contents list of the paper – which is not part of the paper proper.


A contents list can be downloaded here: [pdf]


One minor typo in the paper has been found, on page 282, second printing line:

Now reads:

Elert (1989) for Spanish; and Sandra Clarke (p.c.) for Swedish.

Should read:

for Spanish; and Elert (1989) and Sandra Clarke (p.c.) for Swedish.


Below are the figures that appear in the JIPA paper, and the sound files that are the basis for the spectrograms. The linguistic items that are produced ingressively are marked with a red font.

Figure 1a – Swedish male (same as 1b)

Figure 1b – Swedish male (same as 1a)

Figure 1a

Figure 1b



Figure 2a – Swedish male (same as 2b)

Figure 2b – Swedish male (same as 2b)

Figure 2a

Figure 2b



Figure 3 – Swedish female

Figure 4 – Swedish female

Figure 3

Figure 4

mm mm
(yes yes)

nej nej
(no no)

Figure 5a – Swedish male child (same as 5b)

Figure 5b – Swedish male child (same as 5a)

Figure 5a

Figure 5b

ja gör det
(yes do that)

mm gör det
(yes do that)

Figure 6 – Faroese female

Figure 6

[ No figure here ]

eh eg veit ikki
(eh, I don’t know)

Figure 7a – Scottish English female

Figure 7b – Scottish English male

Figure 7a

Figure 7b

aye aye it wasn’a bad
(yes, yes it wasn’t bad)

aye aye I ken
(yes, yes I know)

04  Sound files – Humans

Here are a couple of sound files that include ingressive affirmations, the Swedish word “ja” (yes). Please click on the spectrogram images for larger and clearer versions (open in new browser window/tab). I intend to put sound samples from other languages here in the near future. Thanks to my former colleague Annika Voss for allowing me to use these sound files (that were recorded for completely different reasons).

Spectrogram 1 - Swedish

Spectrogram 1 - Swedish

Ska egentligen nåt annat komma där sen ja
(... should really come something else there yeah)

Jamen då tar vi om den ja
(well then, let’s do that one again yeah)

05  Sound files – Animals

This section is a condensed version of my research on purring and ingressive phonation in felids and other mammals. For full versions, with audio and video files, as well as a full bibliography, please see either or Wildlife  Research page.

Pulmonic ingressive phonation is not exclusively used by humans but is encountered in the phonation of many animals, as observed by e.g. Charles Darwin in 1872, and Charles Robin Segond (1848) lists dogs, foxes, cats, horses, donkeys and birds, for example. It has also been pointed out that frog calls and several monkey and ape calls make use of ingressive phonation (see 3.2 in my JIPA paper).

About the time the JIPA paper was published I turned my attention towards wildlife conservation in general, and big cats in particular, which implied perusing the literature from a different angle than when researching the literature from a phonetic-acoustic perspective. Very soon I realised that Dr. Gustav Peters had done extensive research on purring – one can probably say that his research on purring parallels mine on ingressive phonation and speech, implying some overlap – and Dr. Peters has kindly provided me with sound files, contacts and references, which is hereby gratefully acknowledged.

The following two papers are of utmost interest to anyone who would like to know more about communication in mammals and purring in cats and genets:

  Peters, Gustav. 2002.
Purring and similar vocalizations in mammals
Mammal Review, volume 3, issue 4, pp. 245–271

Peters, Gustav & Barbara A. Tonkin-Leyhausen. 1999.
Evolution of Acoustic Communication Signals of Mammals: Friendly Close-Range Vocalizations in Felidae (Carnivora)
Journal of Mammalian Evolution, volume 6, no. 2, pp. 129–159


The term ‘purring’ has been used liberally in the mammal vocalization literature, and an exhaustive review is given in Peters (2002). Using a definition of purring that continuous sound production must alternate between pulmonic egressive and ingressive airstream (and usually go on for minutes), Peters (2002) reached the conclusion that until then only ‘purring cats’ (Felidae) and two species of genets (Viverridae sensu stricto), Genetta tigrina, and most likely also Genetta genetta, had been documented to purr.

The subdivision of the Felidae, the cat family, into ‘purring cats’ on the one hand, and ‘roaring cats ’ (i.e. non-purring) on the other, originally goes back to Owen (1834/1835) and was definitely introduced by Pocock (1916), based on a difference in hyoid anatomy. The ‘roaring cats’ (lion, Panthera leo; tiger, P. tigris; jaguar, P. onca; leopard, P. pardus) have an incompletely ossified hyoid, which, according to this conception, enables them to roar but not to purr. On the other hand, the snow leopard (Uncia uncia, or P. uncia), as the fifth felid species with an incompletely ossified hyoid, purrs (Hemmer, 1972). All remaining species of the family Felidae (‘purring cats’) have a completely ossified hyoid which enables them to purr but not to roar.

However, there is no well-founded and unequivocal basis for a classification of the species in the family Felidae according to the absence/presence of purring and roaring, respectively, and differences in hyoid anatomy. Weissengruber et al. (2002) decidedly argued that the ability of a cat species to purr is not affected by the anatomy of its hyoid, i.e. whether it is fully ossified or has a ligamentous epihyoid, and that, based on a technical acoustic definition of roaring, the presence of this vocalization type depends on specific characteristics of the vocal folds and an elongated vocal tract, the latter rendered possible by an incompletely ossified hyoid.

The current classification of the Felidae is based on molecular characteristics (Johnson et al., 2006; O’Brien & Johnson, 2007) and groups the clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa and N. diardi) – with completely ossified hyoids – together with the five cat species in which it is incompletely ossified.

Purring cheetahs, serval, domestic cats and genet

Audio and video files of purring animals are found at:

Leopard sawing

While the leopard (Panthera pardus) does not purr (no roaring cats purr) it still produces sounds that are made partly on ingressive airstream, including the so-called “sawing” sound.

Sawing leopard


Recording provided by
Dr Gustav Peters
at the
Forschungsmuseum Koenig


Nota bene!

The leopard on the photo is not
the sawing leopard that appears
on the sound file

06  Own publications and presentations

Here are my own publications on ingressive speech. The numbering is the same as the one found on Robert Eklund’s homepage (click on Publications).


Eklund, Robert 2015.
Languages with pulmonic ingressive speech: updating and adding to the list In: Proceedings from Fonetik 2015. Working Papers 55/2015, 8–10 June 2015, Centre for Languages and Literature, General Linguistics/Phonetics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, ISSN 0280-526X, pp. 31–34.


Eklund, Robert & Gustav Peters. 2013.
A comparative acoustic analysis of purring in juvenile, subadult and adult cheetahs.
In: Robert Eklund (ed.), Proceedings of Fonetik 2013, the XXVIth Swedish Phonetics Conference, Studies in Language and Culture, no. 21, 12–13 June 2013, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden. ISBN 978-91-7519-582-7, eISBN 978-91-7519-579-7, ISSN 1403-2570, pp. 25–28.


Eklund, Robert, Gustav Peters, Florian Weise & Stuart Munro. 2012.
A comparative acoustic analysis of purring in four cheetahs.
In: Proceedings from FONETIK 2012.
Gothenburg, Sweden, May 30–June 1, 2012, pp. 41–44.


Schötz, Susanne & Robert Eklund. 2011.
A comparative acoustic analysis of purring in four cats.
In: Quarterly Progress and Status Report TMH-QPSR, Volume 51, 2011. Proceedings from Fonetik 2011.
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, 8–10 June 2010, pp. 9–12.


Eklund, Robert, Gustav Peters & Elizabeth D. Duthie. 2010.
An acoustic analysis of purring in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and in the domestic cat (Felis catus).
In: Proceedings of Fonetik 2010, Lund University, 2–4 June 2010, Lund, Sweden, pp. 17–22.


Eklund, Robert. 2008.
Pulmonic ingressive phonation: Diachronic and synchronic characteristics, distribution and function in animal and human sound production and in human speech.
Journal of the International Phonetic Association, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 235–325.
Download from Cambridge University Press.


Eklund, Robert. 2007.
Pulmonic ingressive speech: a neglected universal?
Proceedings of Fonetik 2007, TMH-QPSR, vol. 50, 30 May – 1 June 2007, Stockholm, Sweden, pp. 21–24.
[pdf] [slides.pdf]


Från oraklet i Delfi, via (andra) shamaner och engastromyther, till norrländska dammsugare. En exposé över tal på inandningsluft.
Sling 2006, Stockholm University, 27–28 April 2006
[Slides from 2006 Swedish Linguistics Conference, Stockholm University. In Swedish.]


Eklund, Robert. 2002.
Ingressive Speech As An Indication That Humans Are Talking To Humans (And Not To Machines).
Proceedings of ICSLP’02, 16–20 September 2002, Denver, Colorado, vol. 2, pp. 837–840.
[pdf] [poster.pdf]

07  Radio interviews

Språkteigen (Norwegian radio)

I appeared on the Norwegian public broadcasting program Språkteigen on Sunday, 6 September 2009, where the program hostess Gøril Grov Sørdal interviewed me about ingressive speech, evidently believed by Norwegians to be a typical Norwegian phenomenon (see Swedish below). The interview can be downloaded below. (Nota bene! Gøril speaks Norwegian, and I speak Swedish; the languages are sort of mutually understandable.)

Språkteigen, 6 September 2009. (3.5 MB, 7:31 minutes.)


Språket (Swedish radio)

I appeared on the Swedish public broadcasting program Språket (“The Language”) on Tuesday, 31 October 2006, where the program hostess Anna Lena Ringarp interviewed me about ingressive speech, believed by most Swedes to be a very Swedish phenomenon. “My” part of the program can downloaded below. I suffered from a tremendous cold at the time, but I still think I can be understood (provided you know Swedish, of course).

Språket, 31 October 2006. (4.9 MB, 10:25 minutes.)


08  Bibliography

The JIPA paper includes an extensive set of references (c. 480 entries) to works that treat ingressive phonation and speech from a wide variety of angles, beginning with Van Helmont (1657).

09  Contact

For comments, inquiries, submissions etc., please send an email to

10  Robert Eklund’s homepage

Click on the button below to go to Robert Eklund’s Home Page.

Robert Eklund’s Homepage