The voiced dental fricative is a consonant sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English-speakers, as the th sound in father. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is eth, or [ð] and was taken from the Old English and Icelandic letter eth, which could stand for either a voiced or unvoiced interdental non-sibilant fricative. The symbol is also sometimes used to represent the dental approximant, a similar sound, which no language is known to contrast with a dental non-sibilant fricative, but the approximant is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic: ⟨ð̞⟩.
Dental non-sibilant fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the upper teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.
This sound and its unvoiced counterpart are rare phonemes. Almost all languages of Europe and Asia, such as German, French, Persian, Japanese, and Mandarin, lack the sound. Native speakers of languages without the sound often have difficulty enunciating or distinguishing it, and they replace it with a voiced alveolar sibilant [z], a voiced dental stop or voiced alveolar stop [d], or a voiced labiodental fricative [v]; known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting. As for Europe, there seems to be a great arc where the sound (and/or its unvoiced variant) is present. Most of Mainland Europe lacks the sound. However, some "periphery" languages as Gascon, Welsh, English, Elfdalian, Northern Sami, Mari, Greek, Albanian, Sardinian, some dialects of Basque and most speakers of Spanish have the sound in their consonant inventories, as phonemes or allophones.
Within Turkic languages, Bashkir and Turkmen have both voiced and voiceless dental non-sibilant fricatives among their consonants. Among Semitic languages, they are used in Turoyo, Modern Standard Arabic, albeit not by all speakers of modern Arabic dialects, as well as in some dialects of Hebrew and Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.
|Voiced dental fricative|
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|Voiced dental approximant|
Features of the voiced dental non-sibilant fricative:
In the following transcriptions, the undertack diacritic may be used to indicate an approximant [ð̞].
|Arabic||Modern Standard||ذهب||[ˈðahab]||'gold'||See Arabic phonology|
|Aromanian||zală||[ðalə]||'butter whey'||Corresponds to [z] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology|
|Assyrian Neo-Aramaic||wada||[waːð̞a]||'doing'||Common in the Tyari, Barwari and Chaldean Neo-Aramaic dialects. |
Corresponds to [d] in other varieties.
|Basque||adar||[að̞ar]||'horn'||Allophone of /d/|
|Burmese||အညာသား||[ʔəɲàd̪͡ðá]||'inlander'||Commonly realized as an affricate [d̪͡ð].|
|Catalan||fada||[ˈfað̞ə]||'fairy'||Fricative or approximant. Allophone of /d/. See Catalan phonology|
|Dahalo||Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /d̪/, and may be simply a plosive [d̪] instead.|
|English||this||[ðɪs]||'this'||See English phonology|
|German||Austrian||leider||[ˈlaɛ̯ða]||'unfortunately'||Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Standard German phonology|
|Greek||δάφνη/dáfni||[ˈðafni]||'laurel'||See Modern Greek phonology|
|Hebrew||Iraqi||אדוני||[ʔaðoˈnaj] (help·info)||'my lord'||Commonly pronounced [d]. See Modern Hebrew phonology|
|Judeo-Spanish||Many dialects||קריאדֿור / kriador||[kɾiaˈðor]||'creator'||Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in many dialects.|
|Kabyle||ḏuḇ||[ðuβ]||'to be exhausted'|
|Kurdish||An approximant; postvocalic allophone of /d/. See Kurdish phonology.|
|Norwegian||Meldal dialect||i||[ð̩ʲ˕ː]||'in'||Syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant corresponding to /iː/ in other dialects. See Norwegian phonology|
|Occitan||Gascon||que divi||[ke ˈð̞iwi]||'what I should'||Allophone of /d/. See Occitan phonology|
|Portuguese||European||nada||[ˈn̪äðɐ]||'nothing'||Northern and central dialects. Allophone of /d/, mainly after an oral vowel. See Portuguese phonology|
|Sardinian||nidu||[ˈnið̞u] (help·info)||'nest'||Allophone of /d/|
|Scottish Gaelic||Màiri||[ˈmaːðə]||'Mary'||Some dialects (Lèodhas and Barraigh)|
|Sioux||Lakota||zapta||[ˈðaptã]||'five'||Sometimes with [z]|
|Spanish||Most dialects||dedo||[ˈd̪e̞ð̞o̞]||'finger'||Ranges from close fricative to approximant. Allophone of /d/. See Spanish phonology|
|Peninsular||jazmín||[xäðˈmĩn]||'Jasmine'||Fricative. Allophone of /θ/ before voiced consonants, often in free variation with [θ]|
|Swahili||dhambi||[ðɑmbi]||'sin'||Mostly occurs in Arabic loanwords originally containing this sound.|
|Swedish||Central Standard||bada||[ˈbɑːð̞ä]||'to take a bath'||An approximant; allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology|
|Some dialects||i||[ð̩ʲ˕ː]||'in'||A syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant corresponding to /iː/ in Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology|
|Syriac||Western Neo-Aramaic||ܐܚܕ||[aħːeð]||'to take'|
|Tamil||ஒன்பது||[wʌnbʌðɯ]||'nine'||See Tamil phonology|
|Welsh||bardd||[barð]||'bard'||See Welsh phonology|
|Zapotec||Tilquiapan||Allophone of /d/|