Fricative consonant

Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of [f]; the back of the tongue against the soft palate, in the case of German [x] (the final consonant of Bach); or the side of the tongue against the molars, in the case of Welsh [ɬ] (appearing twice in the name Llanelli). This turbulent airflow is called frication. A particular subset of fricatives are the sibilants. When forming a sibilant, one still is forcing air through a narrow channel, but in addition, the tongue is curled lengthwise to direct the air over the edge of the teeth. English [s], [z], [ʃ], and [ʒ] are examples of sibilants.

The usage of two other terms is less standardized: "Spirant" can be a synonym of "fricative", or (as in e.g. Uralic linguistics) refer to non-sibilant fricatives only. "Strident" could mean just "sibilant", but some authors include also labiodental and uvular fricatives in the class.



All sibilants are coronal, but may be dental, alveolar, postalveolar, or palatal (retroflex) within that range. However, at the postalveolar place of articulation, the tongue may take several shapes: domed, laminal, or apical, and each of these is given a separate symbol and a separate name. Prototypical retroflexes are subapical and palatal, but they are usually written with the same symbol as the apical postalveolars. The alveolars and dentals may also be either apical or laminal, but this difference is indicated with diacritics rather than with separate symbols.

Central non-sibilant fricatives

The IPA also has letters for epiglottal fricatives,

with allophonic trilling, but these might be better analyzed as pharyngeal trills. [1]

Lateral fricatives

The lateral fricative occurs as the ll of Welsh, as in Lloyd, Llewelyn, and Machynlleth ([maˈxənɬɛθ], a town), as the unvoiced 'hl' and voiced 'dl' or 'dhl' in the several languages of Southern Africa (such as Xhosa and Zulu), and in Mongolian.

IPA letters used for both fricatives and approximants

No language distinguishes voiced fricatives from approximants at these places, so the same symbol is used for both. For the pharyngeal, approximants are more numerous than fricatives. A fricative realization may be specified by adding the uptack to the letters, [ʁ̝, ʕ̝]. Likewise, the downtack may be added to specify an approximant realization, [ʁ̞, ʕ̞].

(The bilabial approximant and dental approximant do not have dedicated symbols either and are transcribed in a similar fashion: [β̞, ð̞]. However, the base letters are understood to specifically refer to the fricatives.)


In many languages, such as English, the glottal "fricatives" are unaccompanied phonation states of the glottis, without any accompanying manner, fricative or otherwise. However, in languages such as Arabic, they are true fricatives.[2]

In addition, [ʍ] is usually called a "voiceless labial-velar fricative", but it is actually an approximant. True doubly articulated fricatives may not occur in any language; but see voiceless palatal-velar fricative for a putative (and rather controversial) example.

Aspirated fricatives

Fricatives are very commonly voiced, though cross-linguistically voiced fricatives are not nearly as common as tenuis ("plain") fricatives. Other phonations are common in languages that have those phonations in their stop consonants. However, phonemically aspirated fricatives are rare. [sʰ] contrasts with [s] in Korean; aspirated fricatives are also found in a few Sino-Tibetan languages, in some Oto-Manguean languages, and in the Siouan language Ofo (/sʰ/ and /fʰ/). The record may be Cone Tibetan, which has four contrastive aspirated fricatives: /sʰ/ /ɕʰ/, /ʂʰ/, and /xʰ/.[3]

Nasalized fricatives

Phonemically nasalized fricatives are rare. Some South Arabian languages have /z̃/, Umbundu has /ṽ/, and Kwangali and Souletin Basque have /h̃/. In Coatzospan Mixtec, [β̃, ð̃, s̃, ʃ̃] appear allophonically before a nasal vowel, and in Igbo nasality is a feature of the syllable; when /f v s z ʃ ʒ/ occur in nasal syllables they are themselves nasalized.[4]

Types of fricative[a]
bilabial labio-
dental denti-
alveolar post-
velar uvular pharyn-
central non-sibilant ɸ β f v
fʰ vʱ
θ̼ ð̼ θ̟ ð̟ (θ̪͆ ð̪͆) θ ð θ̠ ð̠ θ͇ ð͇ (laminal)
ɹ̝̊ ɹ̝ (apical)
ɹ̠̊˔ ɹ̠˔ ç ʝ (laminal)
ɻ̝̊ ɻ̝ (apical)
x ɣ
xʰ ɣʱ
χ ʁ̝ ħ ʕ̝
lateral fricative ɬ̪ ɮ̪ ɬ ɮ
ɬ̠ ɮ̠  ʎ̝ (laminal)
ꞎ ɭ˔ (apical)
 ʟ̝
laminal sibilant s̻̪ z̻̪ s̄ z̄ (s̟ z̟) s͇ z͇
s͇ʰ z͇ʱ
s̠ z̠ (s̻̠ z̻̠)
ʃ̻ ʒ̻ (domed)
ŝ ẑ (ʆ ʓ) (closed)
ɕ ʑ
apical sibilant s̺̪ z̺̪ s̺ z̺ ṣ ẓ (s̺̠ z̺̠)
ʃ̺ ʒ̺
ʂ ʐ
fricative trill r̝̊ r̝ ʀ̝̊ ʀ̝ ʜ ʢ
fricative flap ɾ̞̊ ɾ̞
nasalized fricative β̃ f̃ ṽ ð̃ s̃ z̃ ʃ̃ ʒ̃


H is not a fricative in English (see /h/).

Until its extinction, Ubykh may have been the language with the most fricatives (29 not including /h/), some of which did not have dedicated symbols or diacritics in the IPA. This number actually outstrips the number of all consonants in English (which has 24 consonants). By contrast, approximately 8.7% of the world's languages have no phonemic fricatives at all.[5] This is a typical feature of Australian Aboriginal languages, where the few fricatives that exist result from changes to plosives or approximants, but also occurs in some indigenous languages of New Guinea and South America that have especially small numbers of consonants. However, whereas [h] is entirely unknown in indigenous Australian languages, most of the other languages without true fricatives do have [h] in their consonant inventory.

Voicing contrasts in fricatives are largely confined to Europe, Africa, and Western Asia. Languages of South and East Asia, such as Mandarin Chinese, Korean, the Dravidian and Austronesian languages, typically do not have such voiced fricatives as [z] and [v], which are familiar to many European speakers. These voiced fricatives are also relatively rare in indigenous languages of the Americas. Overall, voicing contrasts in fricatives are much rarer than in plosives, being found only in about a third of the world's languages as compared to 60 percent for plosive voicing contrasts.[6]

About 15 percent of the world's languages, however, have unpaired voiced fricatives, i.e. a voiced fricative without a voiceless counterpart. Two-thirds of these, or 10 percent of all languages, have unpaired voiced fricatives but no voicing contrast between any fricative pair.[7]

This phenomenon occurs because voiced fricatives have developed from lenition of plosives or fortition of approximants. This phenomenon of unpaired voiced fricatives is scattered throughout the world, but is confined to nonsibilant fricatives with the exception of a couple of languages that have [ʒ] but lack [ʃ]. (Relatedly, several languages have the voiced affricate [dʒ] but lack [tʃ], and vice versa.) The fricatives that occur most often without a voiceless counterpart are – in order of ratio of unpaired occurrences to total occurrences – [ʝ], [β], [ð], [ʁ] and [ɣ].


Fricatives appear in waveforms as random noise caused by the turbulent airflow, upon which a periodic pattern is overlaid if voiced.[8] Fricatives produced in the front of the mouth tend to have energy concentration at higher frequencies than ones produced in the back.[9] The centre of gravity, the average frequency in a spectrum weighted by the amplitude, may be used to determine the place of articulation of a fricative relative to that of another.[10]

See also


  1. ^ There are likely to be more aspirated, murmured and nasal fricatives than shown here. ⟨s̄ ṣ ŝ⟩ are not IPA transcription


  1. ^ John Esling (2010) "Phonetic Notation", in Hardcastle, Laver & Gibbon (eds) The Handbook of Phonetic Sciences, 2nd ed., p 695.
  2. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.
  3. ^ Guillaume Jacques 2011. A panchronic study of aspirated fricatives, with new evidence from Pumi, Lingua 121.9:1518-1538
  4. ^ Laver (1994: 255–256) Principles of Phonetics
  5. ^ Maddieson, Ian. 2008. "Absence of Common Consonants". In: Haspelmath, Martin & Dryer, Matthew S. & Gil, David & Comrie, Bernard (eds.) The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Munich: Max Planck Digital Library, chapter 18. Accessed on 2008-09-15.
  6. ^ Maddieson, Ian. "Voicing in Plosives and Fricatives", in Martin Haspelmath et al. (eds.) The World Atlas of Language Structures, pp. 26–29. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-19-925591-1.
  7. ^ Maddieson, Ian. Patterns of Sounds. Cambridge University Press, 1984. ISBN 0-521-26536-3.
  8. ^ Zsiga, Elizabeth C. (2013). The Sounds of Language: An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-4051-9103-6.
  9. ^ Johnson, Keith (2012). Acoustic and Auditory Phonetics (3rd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 162–3. ISBN 978-1-4051-9466-2.
  10. ^ Kiss, Zoltán G. (2013). "Measuring acoustic correlates of voicing in stops and fricatives". In Szigetvári, Péter (ed.). VLlxx: Papers Presented to László Varga on His 70th Birthday. Budapest: Department of English Linguistics, Eötvös Loránd University.

External links

Abd (Arabic)

ʿAbd (Arabic: عبد‎) is an Arabic word meaning one who is subordinated as a slave or a servant, and it means also to worship.

The word can also be transliterated into English as 'Abd, where the apostrophe indicates the ayin, denoting a voiced pharyngeal fricative consonant or some reflex of it. In Western ears, it may be perceived as a guttural 'a' sound.

It appears in many common Arab names followed by Al (the) in form of "Abd ul", "Abd ul-", etc.; this is also commonly translitated as "el-," in the form "Abd el-", meaning "servant of the-".

This is always followed by one of the names for God. These names are given in List of Arabic theophoric names and 99 Names of God.

A widespread name Abdullah (name) (or ʿAbd Allah) means "servant of God" or "worshipper of God".

Abd Rabbuh (“slave of his Lord” or “servant of his Lord”)

Abduh (“His slave” or “His servant”)It can also refer to humans, such as:

Abdul Nabi (“slave of the Prophet” or “servant of the Prophet”)

Abdul Zahra (slave of Fatimah Zahra - daughter of Muhammad)

Abdul Hussein (slave of Hussein - grandson of Muhammad)It can also be used by Arab Christians and Arabic-speaking Christians, just as long as it is associated to their religion:

Abdul Masih (“slave of the Messiah” or “servant of the Messiah”)

Abdul Salib (“slave of the Cross” or “servant of the Cross”)

Abdul Shahid (“slave of the Martyr [i.e. Jesus Christ]” or “servant of the Martyr”)

Abd Yasu ("slave of Jesus" or "servant of Jesus")


AbidiAbdullah can be also used by Arab Christians, as they refer to God as Allah.

Dental fricative

The dental fricative or interdental fricative is a fricative consonant pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the teeth. There are several types (those used in English being written as th):

Voiced dental fricative [ð] - as in the English this, [ðɪs].

Voiceless dental fricative [θ] - as in the English thin, [θɪn].

Dental ejective fricative [θʼ]


Ezh (Ʒ ʒ) , also called the "tailed z", is a letter whose lower case form is used in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), representing the voiced postalveolar fricative consonant. For example, the pronunciation of "si" in vision and precision , or the "s" in treasure . See also Ž, the Persian alphabet letter ژ and the Cyrillic ж.

Ezh is also used as a letter in some orthographies of Skolt Sami, both by itself, and with a caron (Ǯ ǯ). These denote partially voiced alveolar and post-alveolar affricates, respectively, broadly represented /dz/ and /dʒ/. It also appears in the orthography of some African languages, for example in the Aja language of Benin and the Dagbani language of Ghana, where the uppercase variant looks like a reflected sigma (Σ).

H with stroke

Ħ (minuscule: ħ) is a letter of the Latin alphabet, derived from H with the addition of a bar. It is used in Maltese and in Tunisian Arabic transliteration (based on Maltese with additional letters) for a voiceless pharyngeal fricative consonant (corresponding to the letter heth of Semitic abjads). Lowercase ħ is used in the International Phonetic Alphabet for the same sound.

In quantum mechanics, an italic ℏ (U+210F) with a line, represents the reduced Planck constant. In this context, it is pronounced "h-bar".

The lowercase resembles the Cyrillic letter Tshe (ћ), or the astronomical symbol of Saturn (♄).

A white uppercase Ħ on a red square is the logo of Heritage Malta.

Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law

In historical linguistics, the Ingvaeonic nasal spirant law (also called the Anglo-Frisian or North Sea Germanic nasal spirant law) is a description of a phonological development that occurred in the Ingvaeonic dialects of the West Germanic languages. This includes Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon, and to a lesser degree Old Dutch (Old Low Franconian).


An interjection is a word or expression that occurs as an utterance on its own and expresses a spontaneous feeling or reaction. The category is quite heterogeneous, and includes such things as exclamations (ouch!, wow!), curses (damn!), greetings (hey, bye), response particles (okay, oh!, m-hm, huh?), hesitation markers (uh, er, um) and other words (stop, cool). Due to its heterogeneous nature, the category of interjections partly overlaps with categories like profanities, discourse markers and fillers. The use and linguistic discussion of interjections can be traced historically through the Greek and Latin Modistae over many centuries.

Kwoma language

Kwoma is a Sepik language of Papua New Guinea also known as Washkuk. The word 'Kwoma' means "hill people" (Kwow, meaning hill, + ma, meaning people or man). Washkuk is a government name for the people of Kwoma. Linguists have the given the name 'Kwoma' as the primary name of the language, but 'Nukuma' is the specific name for the Northern dialect. Nukuma (Nu-top, Kuma-people) means people who live along the upper reaches of the Sanchi River. The speakers of Kwoma are located in the Ambunti district of the Sepik River region. There are two dialects known as Kwoma (Washkuk) and Nukuma. The Kwoma dialect or "hill people" is located in the Washkuk Hills which is a range of mountains on the north side of the Sepik. The Nukuma dialect or "headwater people" live to the north and west of the Washkuk range along the Sepik River. Kwoma is considered a endangered language with an estimated 2,925 native speakers worldwide.

Labial fricative

A labial fricative is a fricative consonant, whose articulation involves the lips. Several kinds can be distinguished based on whether the articulation involves only the lips or either the teeth or the tongue:

Bilabial fricatives (articulated with both lips)

Voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ]

Voiced bilabial fricative [β]

Labiodental fricatives (articulated with the lower lip touching against the upper teeth

Voiceless labiodental fricative [f]

Voiced labiodental fricative [v]

Linguolabial fricatives (articulated with the tip or blade of the tongue against the upper lip:

Voiceless linguolabial fricative [θ̼] or [ɸ̺]

Voiced linguolabial fricative [ð̼] or [β̺]

Lesser Polish dialect

The Lesser Polish dialect (Polish: dialekt małopolski) is a cluster of regional varieties of the Polish language around the Lesser Poland historical region. The exact area is difficult to delineate due to the expansion its features and the existence of transitional subdialects.Common subdialects of the Lesser Polish dialect include Podhale, Kraków, Lwów, Sącz, Żywiec, Kielce and some others.

The common traits of the Lesser Polish dialect include:


voiceless-to-voicing shift, including word boundaries (niosłeś->nióześ, kot leci -> kod_leci)

differentiated nasalisation (or lack thereof) of ą and ę in different parts of the area

pronunciation of -enka suffix (typical of many feminine nouns) as εŋka rather than εnka ("dziewczynka", "sukienka")

A more aggressive merger of stop+fricative consonant clusters into affricates. This happens in standard Polish before obstruents ( "drzwi" → "dżwi"), but in Lesser Polish, it may happen before sonorants, including vowels: trzysta ('three hundred') is pronounced as czysta ('clean' fem.) vs. "cz-szysta" in colloquial Standard or "t-szysta" in "hypercorrect" speech.

frequent usage of initial syllable stress, also oxytonic stress in vocative case (as opposed to paroxytonic stress common in other varieties of Polish)

frequent usage of grammatical particle "że" in imperative mood ("weźże" vs. "weź" - take)

Murmured voice

Murmur (also called breathy voice, whispery voice, soughing and susurration) is a phonation in which the vocal folds vibrate, as they do in normal (modal) voicing, but are adjusted to let more air escape which produces a sighing-like sound. A simple murmured phonation, [ɦ] (not actually a fricative consonant, as a literal reading of the IPA chart would suggest), can sometimes be heard as an allophone of English /h/ between vowels, such as in the word behind, for some speakers.

In the context of the Indo-Aryan languages like Sanskrit and Hindi and comparative Indo-European studies, murmured consonants are often called voiced aspirated, as in the Hindi and Sanskrit stops normally denoted bh, dh, ḍh, jh, and gh and the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European phoneme gʷʰ. From an articulatory perspective, that terminology is incorrect, as murmur is a different type of phonation from aspiration. However, murmured and aspirated stops are acoustically similar in that in both cases there is a delay in the onset of full voicing. In the history of several languages, like Greek and some varieties of Chinese, murmured stops have developed into aspirated stops.

There is some confusion as to the nature of murmured phonation. The IPA and authors such as Peter Ladefoged equate phonemically contrastive murmur with breathy voice in which the vocal folds are held with lower tension (and further apart) than in modal voice, with a concomitant increase in airflow and slower vibration of the glottis. In that model, murmur is a point in a continuum of glottal aperture between modal voice and breath phonation (voicelessness).

Others, such as Laver, Catford, Trask and the authors of the Voice Quality Symbols (VoQS), equate murmur with whispery voice in which the vocal folds or, at least, the anterior part of the vocal folds vibrates, as in modal voice, but the arytenoid cartilages are held apart to allow a large turbulent airflow between them. In that model, murmur is a compound phonation of approximately modal voice plus whisper.

It is possible that the realization of murmur varies among individuals or languages. The IPA uses the term "breathy voice", but VoQS uses the term "whispery voice". Both accept the term "murmur", popularised by Ladefoged.

Palatal fricative

A palatal fricative is a type of fricative consonant that is also a palatal consonant, i.e. pronounced with the body of the tongue in contact with the hard palate. The two main types of palatal fricatives are:

voiceless palatal fricative ([ç])

voiced palatal fricative ([ʝ])Palatal fricatives are rare phonemes, especially the voiced palatal fricative, but they occur somewhat more often as allophones. They may occur as allophones of velar fricatives in the vicinity of front vowels (as in German in the case of [ç]), or as alternants (whether dialectal, emphatic, etc.) of palatal approximants (e.g. /j/ often appears as [ʝ] between vowels in Spanish, and /hj-/ at the beginning of words may appear as [ç] in English, as in "hue", "huge" or "Hubert").

Scat singing

In vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument rather than a speaking medium.


In the context of the recitation of the Quran, Tajweed (Arabic: تجويد‎ tajwīd, IPA: [tædʒˈwiːd], 'elocution') is a set of rules for the correct pronunciation of the letters with all its qualities and applying the various of recitation. In Arabic, the term tajwīd is derived from the triliteral root j-w-d ('to improve'). Tajweed is a fard (compulsory-one must learn this best they can) when reciting the Quran to the best of one's ability.

Velar fricative

A velar fricative is a fricative consonant pronounced with the back of the tongue against the soft palate (or "velum"). It is possible to distinguish the following kinds of velar fricatives:

Voiced velar fricative, a consonant sound written as ⟨ɣ⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Voiceless velar fricative, a consonant sound written as ⟨x⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Velar ejective fricative, a consonant sound written as ⟨xʼ⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Voiceless alveolar flap

The voiceless alveolar tap or flap is rare as a phoneme. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɾ̥⟩, a combination of the letter for the voiced alveolar tap/flap and a diacritic indicating voicelessness. The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is 4_0.

The voiceless alveolar tapped fricative reported from some languages is actually a very brief voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative.

Voiceless alveolar fricative

A voiceless alveolar fricative is a type of fricative consonant pronounced with the tip or blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge (gum line) just behind the teeth. This refers to a class of sounds, not a single sound. There are at least six types with significant perceptual differences:

The voiceless alveolar sibilant [s] has a strong hissing sound, as the s in English sin. It is one of the most common sounds in the world.

The voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant [s̄] (an ad hoc notation), also called apico-dental, has a weaker lisping sound like English th in thin. It occurs in Spanish dialects in southern Spain (eastern Andalusia).

The voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant [s̠], and the subform apico-alveolar [s̺], or called grave, has a weak hushing sound reminiscent of retroflex fricatives. It is used in the languages of northern Iberia, like Asturleonese, Basque, Castilian Spanish (excluding parts of Andalusia), Catalan, Galician and Northern Portuguese. A similar retracted sibilant form is also used in Dutch, Icelandic, some Southern dialects of Swedish, Finnish and Greek. Its sound is between [s] and [ʃ].

The voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative [θ̱] or [θ͇], using the alveolar diacritic from the Extended IPA, is similar to the th in English thin. It occurs in Icelandic.

The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ] sounds like a voiceless, strongly articulated version of English l (somewhat like what the English cluster hl would sound like) and is written as ll in Welsh.The first three types are sibilants, meaning that they are made with the teeth closed and have a piercing, perceptually prominent sound.

Yagaria language

Yagaria is a Papuan language spoken in the Goroka District of Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Named dialects are Kami-Kulaka, Move, Ologuti, Dagenava, Kamate, Hira, Hua (Huva) and Kotom. Yagaria has a total number of 21,116 speakers.

IPA topics

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