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 first three types are sibilants, meaning that they are made with the teeth closed and have a piercing, perceptually prominent sound.

Voiceless coronal fricatives
Dental Denti-
Alveolar Post-alveolar
Retracted Retroflex Palato-
Sibilant plain ʂ ʃ ɕ
Non-sibilant θ θ̠/θ͇/ɹ̝̊ ɻ̝̊
tapped ɾ̞̊/ɹ̥̆˔

Voiceless alveolar sibilants

Voiceless alveolar sibilant
IPA number132
Entity (decimal)s
Unicode (hex)U+0073
Braille⠎ (braille pattern dots-234)
Audio sample
source · help
Voiceless laminal dentalized alveolar sibilant
Voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant
Entity (decimal)s​̺
Unicode (hex)U+0073 U+033A

The voiceless alveolar sibilant is a common consonant sound in vocal languages. It is the sound in English words such as sea and pass, and is represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet with ⟨s⟩. It has a characteristic high-pitched, highly perceptible hissing sound. For this reason, it is often used to get someone's attention, using a call often written as sssst! or psssst!.

The voiceless alveolar sibilant [s] is one of the most common sounds cross-linguistically. If a language has fricatives, it will most likely have [s].[2] However, some languages have a related sibilant sound, such as [ʃ], but no [s]. In addition, sibilants are absent from Australian Aboriginal languages, in which fricatives are rare; even the few indigenous Australian languages that have developed fricatives do not have sibilants.

The voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant (commonly termed the voiceless apico-alveolar sibilant) is a fricative that is articulated with the tongue in a hollow shape, usually with the tip of the tongue (apex) against the alveolar ridge. It is a sibilant sound and is found most notably in a number of languages in a linguistic area covering northern and central Iberia. It is most well known from its occurrence in the Spanish of this area. In the Middle Ages, it occurred in a wider area, covering Romance languages spoken throughout France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as Old High German and Middle High German.

Voiceless apico-alveolar sibilant

Occurrence in Europe


In Romance languages, it occurs as the normal voiceless alveolar sibilant in Astur-Leonese, Castilian Spanish, Catalan, Galician, northern European Portuguese, and some Occitan dialects. It also occurs in Basque and Mirandese, where it is opposed to a different voiceless alveolar sibilant, the more common [s]; the same distinction occurs in a few dialects of northeastern Portuguese. Outside this area, it also occurs in a few dialects of Latin American Spanish (e.g. Antioqueño, in Colombia).

Amongst Germanic languages, it occurs in Dutch and closely related Low German, Icelandic, many dialects in Scandinavia, and working-class Glaswegian English.

It also occurs in Modern Greek (with a laminal articulation), as well as the Baltic languages.

There is no single IPA symbol used for this sound. The symbol ⟨⟩ is often used, with a diacritic indicating an apical pronunciation. However, that is potentially problematic in that not all alveolar retracted sibilants are apical (see below), and not all apical alveolar sibilants are retracted. The ad hoc non-IPA symbols ⟨⟩ and ⟨S⟩ are often used in the linguistic literature even when IPA symbols are used for other sounds, but ⟨⟩ is a common transcription of the retroflex sibilant [ʂ].


In medieval times, it occurred in a wider area, including the Romance languages spoken in most or all of France and Iberia (Old Spanish, Galician-Portuguese, Catalan, French, etc.), as well as in the Old and Middle High German of central and southern Germany[3], and most likely Northern Germany as well. In all of these languages, the retracted "apico-alveolar" sibilant was opposed to a non-retracted sibilant much like modern English [s], and in many of them, both voiceless and voiced versions of both sounds occurred. A solid evidence is different spellings used for two different sibilants: in general, the retracted "apico-alveolar" variants were written ⟨s⟩ or ⟨ss⟩, while the non-retracted variants were written ⟨z⟩, ⟨c⟩ or ⟨ç⟩. In the Romance languages, the retracted sibilants derived from Latin /s/, /ss/ or /ns/, while the non-retracted sibilants derived from earlier affricates [t͡s] and [d͡z], which in turn derived from palatalized /k/ or /t/. The situation was similar in High German, where the retracted sibilants derived largely from Proto-Germanic /s/, while the non-retracted sibilants derived from instances of Proto-Germanic /t/ that were shifted by the High German sound shift. Minimal pairs were common in all languages. Examples in Middle High German, for example, were wizzen "to know" (Old English witan, cf. "to wit") vs. wissen "known" (Old English wissen), and weiz "white" (Old English wīt) vs. weis "way" (Old English wīs, cf. "-wise").

Description of the retracted sibilant

Often, to speakers of languages or dialects that do not have the sound, it is said to have a "whistling" quality, and to sound similar to palato-alveolar ʃ. For this reason, when borrowed into such languages or represented with non-Latin characters, it is often replaced with [ʃ]. This occurred, for example, in English borrowings from Old French (e.g. push from pousser, cash from caisse); in Polish borrowings from medieval German (e.g. kosztować from kosten, żur from sūr (contemporary sauer)); and in representations of Mozarabic (an extinct medieval Romance language once spoken in southern Spain) in Arabic characters. The similarity between retracted [s̺] and [ʃ] has resulted in many exchanges in Spanish between the sounds, during the medieval period when Spanish had both phonemes. Examples are jabón (formerly xabón) "soap" from Latin sapō/sapōnem, jibia "cuttlefish" (formerly xibia) from Latin sēpia, and tijeras "scissors" (earlier tixeras < medieval tiseras) from Latin cīsōrias (with initial t- due to influence from tōnsor "shaver").

One of the clearest descriptions of this sound is from Obaid:[4] "There is a Castilian s, which is a voiceless, concave, apicoalveolar fricative: The tip of the tongue turned upward forms a narrow opening against the alveoli of the upper incisors. It resembles a faint /ʃ/ and is found throughout much of the northern half of Spain".

Many dialects of Modern Greek have a very similar-sounding sibilant that is pronounced with a laminal articulation.[3]

Loss of the voiceless alveolar sibilant

This distinction has since vanished from most of the languages that once had it in medieval times.

  • In most dialects of Spanish, the four alveolar sibilants have merged into the non-retracted [s].
  • In French and most dialects of Portuguese, the four alveolar sibilants have merged into non-retracted [s] and [z], while in European Portuguese, most other Old World Portuguese variants and some recently European-influenced dialects of Brazil all instances of coda [s̺], voiced [z̺] before voiced consonants, were backed to [ɕ] [ʑ], while in most of Brazilian Portuguese this phenomenon is much rarer, being essentially absent in the dialects that conserved the most archaic Portuguese forms and/or had a greater indigenous and/or non-Portuguese European influence.
  • In the remaining dialects of Portuguese, found in northern Portugal, they merged into the retracted [s̺] [z̺], or, as in Mirandese (which is, however, not a Portuguese dialect, but belongs to Asturian-Leonese), conserved the medieval distinction.
  • In central and northern Spanish, the non-retracted [s] was fronted to [θ] after merging with non-retracted [z], while the retracted [s̺] remains.
  • In German, most instances of [s̺] were fronted to [s], but some were backed to become [ʃ] (initially before a consonant; in many modern High German dialects, also non-initially before a consonant), postalveolar as in European and fluminense Portuguese.

Loss-causing events

Those languages in which the sound occurs typically did not have a phonological process from which either [s] or [ʃ] appeared, two similar sounds with which ⟨s̺⟩ was eventually confused. In general, older European languages only had a single pronunciation of s.

In Romance languages, [s] was reached from -ti-, -ci-, -ce- ([ti], [ki], [ke]) clusters that eventually became [ts], [tsi], [tse] and later [s], [si], [se] (as in Latin fortia "force", civitas "city", centum "hundred"), while [ʃ] was reached:

  • From a [sk] or [ks] cluster in southern Romance, as in Latin miscere > Portuguese mexer "to move", Latin fluxus > Spanish flojo "lax", Latin crescere > Italian crescere "grow", with a different pronunciation.
  • from a deaffricated [tʃ] in Northern France and southern-central Portugal, as in French chat "cat", Portuguese achar "find".

In High German, [s] was reached from a [t] > [ts] > [s] process, as in German Wasser vs English water. In English, the same process of Romance [ts] > [s] occurred in Norman-imported words, accounting for modern homophones sell and cell. [ʃ] was also reached from a -sk- cluster reduction as in Romance, e.g. Old English spelling "asc" for modern "ash", German schirm vs English screen, English ship vs Danish skib.


Standard Modern Greek, that has apical [s̺], lacked both processes.

The Germanic-speaking regions that did not have either phenomena have normally preserved the apical [s̺], that is, Icelandic, Dutch and many Scandinavian lects. It also reached modern times in Low German, but this language has largely been replaced by Standard German.

The main Romance language to preserve the sound, Castilian Spanish, is exceptional in that it had both events that produced [s] and [ʃ], and preserved the apical S at the expense of both, that were shifted farther away. Galician changed only [s], and Catalan, as well as Ladino, still preserves all three sounds.

Reach in ancient times

Because of the widespread medieval distribution, it has been speculated that retracted [s̺] was the normal pronunciation in spoken Latin. Certain borrowings suggest that it was not far off from the sh-sound [ʃ], e.g. Aramaic Jeshua > Latin Jesus, Hebrew Shabbat > Vulgar Latin Sabato; but this could also be explained by the lack of a better sound in Latin to represent Semitic sh. It equally well could have been an areal feature inherited from the prehistoric languages of Western Europe, as evidenced by its occurrence in modern Basque.

For the same reasons, it can be speculated that retracted [s̺] was the pronunciation of Proto-Germanic s. Its presence in many branches of Indo-European and its presence particularly in the more conservative languages inside each branch (e.g. Icelandic, Spanish), as well as being found in disparate areas, such as the Baltic languages and Greece, suggests it could have ultimately been the main allophone of Proto-Indo-European s, known for ranging from [s] to as far as [ɕ].

[ʃ], but not [s], was developed in Italian. However, where Spanish and Catalan have apical [s̺], Italian uses the same laminal [s] that occurs in standard forms of English: evidence, it could be argued, that S was not pronounced apically in Latin. But Neapolitan has a medieval S becoming either [s] or [ʃ] depending on context, much as in European Portuguese, which could attest to the previous existence of [s̺] in the Italian Peninsula. The Italian pronunciation as laminal S could also be explained by the presence of [ʃ] but not [s], thus moving the pronunciation of [s̺] to the front of the mouth in an attempt to better differentiate between the two sounds.

Comparison between the English alveolar sibilant and the Spanish apico-alveolar sibilant

The term "voiceless alveolar sibilant" is potentially ambiguous in that it can refer to at least two different sounds. Various languages of northern Iberia (e.g. Astur-Leonese, Catalan, Basque, Galician, Portuguese and Spanish) have a so-called "voiceless apico-alveolar sibilant" that lacks the strong hissing of the [s] described in this article but has a duller, more "grave" sound quality somewhat reminiscent of a voiceless retroflex sibilant. Basque, Mirandese and some Portuguese dialects in northeast Portugal (as well as medieval Spanish and Portuguese in general) have both types of sounds in the same language.

There is no general agreement about what actual feature distinguishes these sounds. Spanish phoneticians normally describe the difference as apical (for the northern Iberian sound) vs. laminal (for the more common sound), but Ladefoged and Maddieson[5] claim that English /s/ can be pronounced apical, which is evidently not the same as the apical sibilant of Iberian Spanish and Basque. Also, Adams[6] asserts that many dialects of Modern Greek have a laminal sibilant with a sound quality similar to the "apico-alveolar" sibilant of northern Iberia.

Some authors have instead suggested that the difference lies in tongue shape. Adams[6] describes the northern Iberian sibilant as "retracted". Ladefoged and Maddieson[5] appear to characterize the more common hissing variant as grooved, and some phoneticians (such as J. Catford) have characterized it as sulcal (which is more or less a synonym of "grooved"), but in both cases, there is some doubt about whether all and only the "hissing" sounds actually have a "grooved" or "sulcal" tongue shape.


Features of the voiceless alveolar sibilant:

  • Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is generally produced by channeling air flow along a groove in the back of the tongue up to the place of articulation, at which point it is focused against the sharp edge of the nearly clenched teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
  • There are at least three specific variants of [s]:
    • Dentalized laminal alveolar (commonly called "dental"), which means it is articulated with the tongue blade very close to the upper front teeth, with the tongue tip resting behind lower front teeth. The hissing effect in this variety of [s] is very strong.[7]
    • Non-retracted alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the alveolar ridge, termed respectively apical and laminal. According to Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) about half of English speakers use a non-retracted apical articulation.
    • Retracted alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue slightly behind the alveolar ridge, termed respectively apical and laminal. Acoustically, it is close to laminal [ʂ] or (to a lesser extent) [ʃ].
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Dentalized laminal alveolar

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arabic Gulf[8] مسجد [mɐˈs̪iːd̪] 'mosque'
Armenian Eastern[9] սար [s̪ɑɾ]  'mountain'
Azerbaijani[10] su [s̪u] 'water'
Basque[11] gauza [ɡäus̪ä] 'thing' Contrasts with an apical sibilant.[11] See Basque phonology
Belarusian[12] стагоддзе [s̪t̪äˈɣod̪d̪͡z̪ʲe] 'century' Contrasts with palatalized form. See Belarusian phonology
Bulgarian[13] всеки [ˈfs̪ɛki] 'everyone' Contrasts with palatalized form
Chinese Mandarin[14][15] sān [s̪a̋n] 'three' See Mandarin phonology
Czech[16] svět [s̪vjɛt̪] 'world' See Czech phonology
English Auckland[17] sand [s̪ɛnˑd̥] 'sand' See English phonology
Multicultural London[18] [s̪anˑd̥]
French[19][20][21] façade [fäs̪äd̪] 'front' See French phonology
Hungarian[22] sziget [ˈs̪iɡɛt̪] 'island' See Hungarian phonology
Kazakh[24] сом [s̪u̯ʊm] 'pure'
Kyrgyz[25] сабиз [s̪äˈbis̪] 'carrot'
Latvian[26] sens [s̪en̪s̪] 'ancient' See Latvian phonology
Macedonian[27] скока [ˈs̪kɔkä] 'jump' See Macedonian phonology
Mirandese Contrasts seven sibilants altogether, preserving medieval Ibero-Romance contrasts.
Polish[7][28] sum [s̪um]  'catfish' See Polish phonology
Romanian[29] surd [s̪ur̪d̪] 'deaf' See Romanian phonology
Russian[30] волосы [ˈvo̞ɫ̪əs̪ɨ̞]  'hair' Contrasts with palatalized form. See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[31] Slàinte [ˈs̪ɫ̪äːn̪t̪ʰʲə] 'cheers' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian[32][33] sam [s̪ȃ̠m] 'alone' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene[34] svet [s̪ʋéːt̪] 'world' See Slovene phonology
Spanish European[35] estar [e̞s̪ˈt̪är] 'to be' Allophone of /s/ before dental consonants.[35] See Spanish phonology
Swedish[36] Central Standard[37][38] säte [ˈs̪ɛːt̪e] 'seat' Retracted in some southern dialects.[39] See Swedish phonology
Toda[40][41] [kɔs̪] 'money'
Turkish[19][42] su [s̪u] 'water' See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[43] село [s̪ɛˈɫ̪ɔ] 'village' See Ukrainian phonology
Upper Sorbian[44] sowa [ˈs̪ovä] 'owl' See Upper Sorbian phonology
Uzbek[45] soat [ˈs̪o̞æt̪] 'hour'
Vietnamese Hanoi[46] xa [s̪äː] 'far' See Vietnamese phonology

Non-retracted alveolar

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe сэ [sa] 'I'
Arabic Modern Standard[47] جَلَسَ [ˈdʒælæsɐ] 'to sit' See Arabic phonology
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic sepa [seːpaː] 'sword'
Bengali রাস্তা [raːst̪a] 'street' See Bengali phonology
Burmese စစားဗျီ [sə sá bjì] 'I am eating now'
Chinese Cantonese / sim2 [siːm˧˥] 'twinkle' See Cantonese phonology
Dutch[48][49] staan [s̻t̻aːn̻] 'to stand' Laminal; may have only mid-to-low pitched friction
in the Netherlands.[48][49] See Dutch phonology
Estonian sõna [ˈsɤnɑ] 'word'
English sit [sɪt] 'sit' See English phonology
Esperanto Esperanto [espeˈranto] 'Who hopes' See Esperanto phonology
Faroese sandur [sandʊɹ] 'sand'
Georgian[50] ამი [ˈsɑmi] 'three'
Hebrew ספר [ˈsefeʁ] 'book' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindustani साल / سال [saːl] 'year' See Hindustani phonology
Icelandic[51][52] segi [ˈs̺ɛːjɪ] 'I say' Apical.[51][52] See Icelandic phonology
Italian Marked accents
of Emilia-Romagna[53]
sali [ˈs̺ʲäːli] 'you go up' Palatalized apical;[53] may be [ʂ] or [ʃ] instead.[53]
See Italian phonology
Japanese[54] 複数形 / fukusūkē [ɸɯkɯsɯːkeː] 'plural' See Japanese phonology
Kabardian сэ [sa] 'I'
Korean / seom [sʌːm] 'island' See Korean phonology
Malay satu [satu] 'one'
Maltese iebes [eaˈbes] 'hard'
Marathi साप [saːp] 'snake' See Marathi phonology
Occitan Limousin maichent [mejˈsẽ] 'bad'
Persian سیب‎ / sib [sib] 'apple' See Persian phonology
Portuguese[55] caço [ˈkasu] 'I hunt' See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਸੱਪ [səpː] 'snake'
Spanish[35] Latin American saltador [s̻al̪t̪aˈð̞o̞r] 'jumper' See Spanish phonology and Seseo
Equatorial Guinean
Swahili Kiswahili [kiswahili] 'Swahili'
Sylheti ꠢꠂꠍꠦ [ɔise] 'done'
Vietnamese[56] xa [saː˧] 'far' See Vietnamese phonology
West Frisian[57] sâlt [sɔːt] 'salt' See West Frisian phonology
Yi sy [sɿ˧] 'die'

Retracted alveolar

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Asturian pasu [ˈpäs̺u] 'step' Apical.
Basque[11][58] su [s̺u] 'fire' Apical. Contrasts with a dentalized laminal sibilant.[11][58]
Catalan[59][60] Most dialects set [ˈs̺ɛt̪] 'seven' Apical. See Catalan phonology
Some Valencian speakers[61] peix [ˈpe̠js̠ʲ] 'fish' Normally transcribed with ⟨ʂ⟩; realized as pre-palatal [ɕ]
in Standard Catalan and Valencian.
Some Valencian speakers[61] patisc [päˈt̪is̠ʲk] 'I suffer'
English Glasgow[62] sun [s̺ʌn] 'sun' Working-class pronunciation, other speakers may use a non-retracted [s]
Galician saúde [s̺äˈuðe] 'health' Apical.
Italian Central Italy[63] sali [ˈs̠äːli] 'you go up' Present in Lazio north of Cape Linaro,[63] most of Umbria[63]
(save Perugia and the extreme south),[63] Marche and south of Potenza.[63]
Northern Italy[64][65] Apical.[66] Present in many areas north of the La Spezia–Rimini Line.[67][68]
See Italian phonology
Sicily[63] Present south and west of a line drawn from Syracuse to Cefalù.[63]
Leonese pasu [ˈpäs̺ʊ] 'step' Apical.
Low German[39]
Mirandese passo [ˈpäs̺u] 'step' Apical. Contrasts with /s̪/.
Occitan Gascon dos [d̻ys̺] 'two' See Occitan phonology
Languedocien [d̻us̺]
Portuguese[55][69] European,
inland northern
cansaço [kə̃ˈs̺äs̻u] 'weariness' Apical. Contrasts with /s̻/. See Portuguese phonology
coastal northern
cansaço [kə̃ˈs̺äs̺u] Merges with /s̻/. See Portuguese phonology
Inland and
southern capixaba
pescador [pe̞s̺käˈd̻oχ] 'fisherman' Realization of Portuguese coda sibilant, which may be postalveolars,
depending on dialect
Carioca do brejo escadas [is̺ˈkäd̻ɐs̺] 'stairs'
Spanish Andean saltador [s̺äl̪t̪äˈð̞o̞ɾ] 'jumper' Apical. In Andean and Paisa (except in southern parts of Antioquia)
alternates with a more frequent corono-dental /s/.[70][71]
See Spanish phonology and seseo
Paisa accent
Swedish Blekinge[39] säte [ˈs̠ɛːte] 'seat' See Swedish phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Danish[72][73][74] sælge [ˈseljə] 'sell' Most often non-retracted apical, but can be dentalized laminal for some speakers.[72][73][74] See Danish phonology
Finnish[75] sinä [sinæ] 'you' Varies between non-retracted and retracted.[75] See Finnish phonology
German Standard[76] Biss [bɪs] 'bite' Varies between dentalized laminal, non-retracted laminal and non-retracted apical.[76] See Standard German phonology
Greek[77] σαν san [sɐn] 'as' Varies between non-retracted and retracted, depending on the environment.[77] See Modern Greek phonology
Norwegian Urban East[78] sand [sɑnː] 'sand' Most often dentalized laminal, but can be non-retracted apical for some speakers.[78] See Norwegian phonology
Italian Standard[79] sali [ˈsäːli] 'you go up' Varies between dentalized laminal and non-retracted apical.[79] See Italian phonology
Ticino[66] Varies between dentalized laminal and non-retracted apical.[80] Both variants may be labiodentalized.[66] See Italian phonology

Voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative

Voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative
IPA number130 414
Entity (decimal)&#952;​&#817;
Unicode (hex)U+03B8 U+0331
Audio sample
source · help
Voiceless alveolar tapped fricative
IPA number124 402A 430
Unicode (hex)U+027E U+031E U+030A
Audio sample
source · help

The voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative (also known as a "slit" fricative) is a consonantal sound. As the International Phonetic Alphabet does not have separate symbols for the alveolar consonants (the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that are not palatalized), this sound is usually transcribed ⟨θ̠⟩, occasionally ⟨θ͇⟩ (retracted or alveolarized [θ], respectively), ⟨ɹ̝̊⟩ (constricted voiceless [ɹ]), or ⟨⟩ (lowered [t]).

Few languages also have the voiceless alveolar tapped fricative, which is simply a very brief apical alveolar non-sibilant fricative, with the tongue making the gesture for a tapped stop but not making full contact. This can be indicated in the IPA with the lowering diacritic to show full occlusion did not occur.[81]

Tapped fricatives are occasionally reported in the literature, though these claims are not generally independently confirmed and so remain dubious.

Flapped fricatives are theoretically possible but are not attested.[81]


  • Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence. However, it does not have the grooved tongue and directed airflow, or the high frequencies, of a sibilant.
  • Its place of articulation is alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the alveolar ridge, termed respectively apical and laminal.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afenmai[81] [aɾ̞̊u] 'hat' Tapped; tense equivalent of lax /ɾ/.[81]
Dutch[82] Geert [ɣeːɹ̝̊t] 'Geert' One of many possible realizations of /r/; distribution unclear. See Dutch phonology
English Australian[83] Italy [ˈɪ̟θ̠əɫɪi̯] 'Italy' Occasional allophone of /t/.[83] See Australian English phonology
Received Pronunciation[84] [ˈɪθ̠əlɪi̯] Common allophone of /t/.[84]
Irish[85] [ˈɪθ̠ɪli] Allophone of /t/. See English phonology
Some American speakers[86] [ˈɪɾ̞̊əɫi] Tapped; possible allophone of /t/. Can be a voiceless tap [ɾ̥] or a voiced tap [ɾ] instead.[86] See English phonology
Scouse[87][88] attain [əˈθ̠eɪn] 'attain' Allophone of /t/. See English phonology
Icelandic[52][89] þakið [ˈθ̠äkið̠] 'the roof' Laminal.[52][89] See Icelandic phonology
Italian Bologna[66] sali [ˈθ̠äːli] 'you go up' Laminal; a hypercorrective variant of /s/ for some young speakers. Either non-sibilant, or "not sibilant enough".[66] See Italian phonology
Turkish[90] bir [biɾ̞̊] 'a(n)' Tapped; word-final allophone of /ɾ/.[90] See Turkish phonology

See also


  1. ^ Pandeli et al. (1997), p. ?.
  2. ^ Maddieson (1984), p. ?.
  3. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. ?.
  4. ^ Obaid (1973), p. ?.
  5. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. ?.
  6. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. 283.
  7. ^ a b Puppel, Nawrocka-Fisiak & Krassowska (1977:149), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:154)
  8. ^ Qafisheh (1977), pp. 2, 9.
  9. ^ Kozintseva (1995), p. 7.
  10. ^ Axundov (1983), pp. 115, 128-131.
  11. ^ a b c d Hualde, Lujanbio & Zubiri (2010:1). Although this paper discusses mainly the Goizueta dialect, the authors state that it has "a typical, conservative consonant inventory for a Basque variety".
  12. ^ Padluzhny (1989), p. 47.
  13. ^ Klagstad Jr. (1958), p. 46.
  14. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), pp. 109-110.
  15. ^ Lin (2001), pp. 17-25.
  16. ^ Palková (1994), p. 228.
  17. ^ Bauer & Warren (2004), p. 594.
  18. ^ "English speech services | Accent of the Year / sibilants in MLE". Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  19. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. 288.
  20. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1999), p. 79.
  21. ^ Grønnum (2005), p. 144.
  22. ^ Szende (1999), p. 104.
  23. ^ Jerzy Treder. "Fonetyka i fonologia". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  24. ^ Kara (2002), p. 10.
  25. ^ Kara (2003), p. 11.
  26. ^ Nau (1998), p. 6.
  27. ^ Lunt (1952), p. 1.
  28. ^ Rocławski (1976), pp. 149.
  29. ^ Ovidiu Drăghici. "Limba Română contemporană. Fonetică. Fonologie. Ortografie. Lexicologie" (PDF). Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  30. ^ Chew (2003), p. 67.
  31. ^ Lamb (2003), p. 18.
  32. ^ Kordić (2006), p. 5.
  33. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 66.
  34. ^ Pretnar & Tokarz (1980), p. 21.
  35. ^ a b c d Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 258.
  36. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 171.
  37. ^ Engstrand (1999), pp. 140-141.
  38. ^ Engstrand (2004), p. 167.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Adams (1975), p. 289.
  40. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 157.
  41. ^ Ladefoged (2005), p. 168.
  42. ^ Zimmer & Orgun (1999), p. 154.
  43. ^ S. Buk; J. Mačutek; A. Rovenchak (2008). "Some properties of the Ukrainian writing system". Glottometrics. 16: 63–79. arXiv:0802.4198.
  44. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 22, 38, 39.
  45. ^ Sjoberg (1963), p. 11.
  46. ^ Thompson (1987), pp. 8-9.
  47. ^ Thelwall (1990), p. 37.
  48. ^ a b Gussenhoven (1999), p. 75.
  49. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 190.
  50. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  51. ^ a b Kress (1982:23–24) "It is never voiced, as s in sausen, and it is pronounced by pressing the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, close to the upper teeth – somewhat below the place of articulation of the German sch. The difference is that German sch is labialized, while Icelandic s is not. It is a pre-alveolar, coronal, voiceless spirant."
  52. ^ a b c d Pétursson (1971:?), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:145)
  53. ^ a b c Canepari (1992), p. 73.
  54. ^ Okada (1999), p. 117.
  55. ^ a b Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  56. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458–461.
  57. ^ Sipma (1913), p. 16.
  58. ^ a b Hualde, J. Basque Phonology (1991) Routledge ISBN 0-415-05655-1
  59. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 54.
  60. ^ Torreblanca (1988), p. 347.
  61. ^ a b Saborit (2009), p. 12.
  62. ^ Annexe 4: Linguistic Variables
  63. ^ a b c d e f g Adams (1975), p. 286.
  64. ^ Adams (1975), pp. 285-286.
  65. ^ Canepari (1992), pp. 71-72.
  66. ^ a b c d e Canepari (1992), p. 72.
  67. ^ Canepari (1992), p. 71.
  68. ^ Adams (1975), p. 285.
  69. ^ (in Italian) Accenti romanze: Portogallo e Brasile (portoghese) – The influence of foreign accents on Italian language acquisition Archived 2012-03-30 at the Wayback Machine
  70. ^ Montes (1992), p. 527.
  71. ^ Betancourt (1993), p. 285–286.
  72. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), pp. 61 and 131.
  73. ^ a b Thorborg (2003:80). The author states that /s/ is pronounced with "the tip of the tongue right behind upper teeth, but without touching them." This is confirmed by the accompanying image.
  74. ^ a b Grønnum (2005:144). Only this author mentions both alveolar and dental realizations.
  75. ^ a b Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 27.
  76. ^ a b Mangold (2005), p. 50.
  77. ^ a b Arvaniti (2007), p. 12.
  78. ^ a b Skaug (2003), pp. 130–131.
  79. ^ a b Canepari (1992), p. 68.
  80. ^ Canepari (1992), pp. 68 and 72.
  81. ^ a b c d Laver (1994), p. 263.
  82. ^ Collins & Mees (2003:199). Authors do not say where exactly it is used.
  83. ^ a b Loakes & McDougall (2007), pp. 1445-1448.
  84. ^ a b Buizza (2011), pp. 16-28.
  85. ^ Hickey (1984), pp. 234–235.
  86. ^ a b Laver (1994), pp. 263–264.
  87. ^ Marotta & Barth (2005), p. 385.
  88. ^ Watson (2007), pp. 352-353.
  89. ^ a b Grønnum (2005), p. 139.
  90. ^ a b Yavuz & Balcı (2011), p. 25.


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External links


/s/ may refer to:

Signature, a mark that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent

Voiceless alveolar sibilant, a type of voiceless alveolar fricative

Alveolar fricative

The alveolar fricative may refer to:

Voiced alveolar fricative, a consonant sound written as ⟨z⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Voiceless alveolar fricative, a consonant sound written as ⟨s⟩ in the International Phonetic Alphabet

Bleeding order

Bleeding order is a term used in phonology to describe specific interactions of phonological rules. The term was introduced in 1968 by Paul Kiparsky. If two phonological rules are said to be in bleeding order, the application of the first rule creates a context in which the second rule can no longer apply.

The opposite of this is called feeding order.

Catalan phonology

The phonology of Catalan, a Romance language, has a certain degree of dialectal variation. Although there are two standard dialects, one based on Eastern Catalan and one based on Valencian, this article deals with features of all or most dialects, as well as regional pronunciation differences. Various studies have focused on different Catalan varieties; for example, Wheeler (1979) and Mascaró (1976) analyze Central Eastern varieties, the former focusing on the educated speech of Barcelona and the latter focusing more on the vernacular of Barcelona, and Recasens (1986) does a careful phonetic study of Central Eastern Catalan.Catalan is characterized by final-obstruent devoicing, lenition, and voicing assimilation; a set of 7 or 8 phonemic vowels, vowel assimilations (including vowel harmony), many phonetic diphthongs, and vowel reduction, whose precise details differ between dialects. Several dialects have a dark l, and all dialects have palatal l (/ʎ/) and n (/ɲ/).

Es (Cyrillic)

Es (С с; italics: С с) is a letter of the Cyrillic script.

It commonly represents the voiceless alveolar fricative /s/, like the pronunciation of ⟨s⟩ in "sand".

Karenic languages

The Karen () or Karenic languages, are tonal languages spoken by some seven million Karen people. They are of unclear affiliation within the Sino-Tibetan languages. The Karen languages are written using the Burmese script. The three main branches are Sgaw, Pwo and Pa'o. Karenni (also known as Kayah or Red Karen) and Kayan (also known as Padaung) are related to the Sgaw branch. They are unusual among the Sino-Tibetan languages in having a subject–verb–object word order; other than Karen, Bai and the Chinese languages, Sino-Tibetan languages have a subject–object–verb order. This is likely due to influence from neighboring Mon and Tai languages.

Klon language

Kelon, or Klon, (pronounced [kəlon]) is a Papuan language of the western tip of Alor Island in the Alor archipelago of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

Mizrahi Hebrew

Mizrahi Hebrew, or Eastern Hebrew, refers to any of the pronunciation systems for Biblical Hebrew used liturgically by Mizrahi Jews: Jews from Arab countries or east of them and with a background of Arabic, Persian or other languages of the Middle East and Asia. As such, Mizrahi Hebrew is actually a blanket term for many dialects.

Sephardi Hebrew is not considered one of these, even if it has been spoken in the Middle East and North Africa. The Sephardim were expellees from Spain and settled among the Mizrahim, but in countries such as Syria and Morocco, there was a fairly high degree of convergence between the Sephardi and the local pronunciations of Hebrew. Yemenite Hebrew is also considered quite separate, as it has a wholly different system for the pronunciation of vowels.

The same terms are sometimes used for the pronunciation of Modern Hebrew by Jews of Mizrahi origins. It is generally a compromise between Modern Standard Hebrew and the traditional liturgical pronunciation as described in this article. A common form of such compromise is the use of [ħ] and [ʕ] for ח and ע, respectively, with most or all other sounds pronounced as in Standard Israeli Hebrew.

SAMPA chart

The following show the typical symbols for consonants and vowels used in SAMPA, an ASCII-based system based on the International Phonetic Alphabet. Note that SAMPA is not a universal system as it varies from language to language.


Samekh or Simketh is the fifteenth letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Samek , Hebrew ˈSamekh ס, Aramaic Semkath , Syriac Semkaṯ ܣ, representing /s/. The Arabic alphabet, however, uses a letter based on Phoenician Šīn to represent /s/ (see there); however, that glyph takes Samekh's place in the traditional Abjadi order of the Arabic alphabet.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Xi (Ξ, ξ). However, its name gave rise to Sigma.

Sani (letter)

Sani (asomtavruli Ⴑ, nuskhuri ⴑ, mkhedruli ს) is the 20th letter of the three Georgian scripts.In the system of Georgian numerals it has a value of 200.Sani commonly represents the voiceless alveolar fricative /s/, like the pronunciation of ⟨s⟩ in "see".

Sat (letter)

Śat ሰ is a letter of the Ge'ez abugida, descended from South Arabian 𐩪. It represents both a historical "s"(a voiceless alveolar fricative) and "ṯ" (a voiceless dental fricative).

Syriac language

Syriac (; ܠܫܢܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܐ Leššānā Suryāyā), also known as Syrian/Syriac Aramaic, Syro-Aramaic or Classical Syriac, is a dialect of Middle Aramaic of the Northwest Semitic languages of the Afroasiatic family that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century CE in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Syriac was once spoken across much of the Near East as well as Anatolia and Eastern Arabia.The Old Aramaic language was adopted by the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–609 BC) when the Assyrians conquered the various Syro-Hittite states to its west. The Achaemenid Empire (546-332 BC), which rose after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, also retained Old Aramaic as its official language, and Old Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the region. During the course of the third and fourth centuries AD, the inhabitants of the region began to embrace Christianity. Because of theological differences, Syriac-speaking Christians bifurcated during the 5th century into the Church of the East, or East Syrians under Sasanian rule, and the Syriac Orthodox, or West Syrians under the Byzantine empire. After this separation, the two groups developed distinct dialects differing primarily in the pronunciation and written symbolisation of vowels. The modern, and vastly spoken, Syriac varieties today include Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic and Turoyo, among others, which, in turn, have their own subdialects as well.Along with Latin and Greek, Syriac became one of "the three most important Christian languages in the early centuries" of the Common Era. From the 1st century AD, Syriac became the vehicle of Syriac Christianity and culture, and the liturgical language of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Maronite Church, and the Church of the East, along with its descendants: the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Pentecostal Church.

Syriac Christianity and language spread throughout Asia as far as the Indian Malabar Coast and Eastern China, and was the medium of communication and cultural dissemination for the later Arabs and, to a lesser extent, the Parthian Empire and Sasanian Empire. Primarily a Christian medium of expression, Syriac had a fundamental cultural and literary influence on the development of Arabic, which largely replaced it towards the 14th century. Syriac remains the sacred language of Syriac Christianity to this day.

Voiceless alveolar trill

A voiceless alveolar trill differs from the voiced alveolar trill /r/ only by the vibrations of the vocal cord. It occurs in a few languages, usually alongside the voiced version, as a similar phoneme or an allophone.

Proto-Indo-European *sr developed into a sound spelled ⟨ῥ⟩, with the letter for /r/ and the diacritic for /h/, in Ancient Greek. It was probably a voiceless alveolar trill and became the regular word-initial allophone of /r/ in standard Attic Greek that has disappeared in Modern Greek.

PIE *srew- > Ancient Greek ῥέω "flow", possibly [r̥é.oː]

Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

Not to be confused with the Voiceless alveolar lateral affricate, the Tibetan lh as in Lhasa

The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiceless dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral fricatives is [ɬ], and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is [K]. The symbol [ɬ] is called "belted l" and should not be confused with "l with tilde", [ɫ], which transcribes a different sound, the velarized alveolar lateral approximant. It should also be distinguished from a voiceless alveolar lateral approximant, although the fricative is sometimes incorrectly described as a "voiceless l", a description fitting only of the approximant.

Several Welsh names beginning with this sound (e.g. Llwyd /ɬʊɨd/, Llywelyn /ɬəˈwɛlɨn/) have been borrowed into English, where they either retain the Welsh ⟨ll⟩ spelling but are pronounced with an /l/ (Lloyd, Llewellyn), or are substituted with ⟨fl⟩ (pronounced /fl/) (Floyd, Fluellen).

Voiceless dental fricative

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in thing. Though rather rare as a phoneme in the world's inventory of languages, it is encountered in some of the most widespread and influential (see below). The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨θ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in post-classical Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta".

The 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 or lower teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

This sound and its voiced counterpart are rare phonemes occurring in 4% of languages in a phonological analysis of 2155 languages. Among the more than 60 languages with over 10 million speakers, only English, various dialects of Arabic, Standard European Spanish, Swahili (in words derived from Arabic), Burmese, Greek have the voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative. Speakers of languages and dialects without the sound sometimes have difficulty producing or distinguishing it from similar sounds, especially if they have had no chance to acquire it in childhood, and typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative (/s/) (as in Indonesian), voiceless dental stop (/t/), or a voiceless labiodental fricative (/f/); known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting.The sound is known to have disappeared from a number of languages, e.g. from most of the Germanic languages or dialects, where it is retained only in Scots, English, Elfdalian, and Icelandic, but it is alveolar in the last of these. Among non-Germanic Indo-European languages as a whole, the sound was also once much more widespread, but is today preserved in a few languages including the Brythonic languages, Castilian Spanish, Venetian, Albanian and Greek. It has likewise disappeared from many Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and many modern varieties of Arabic (excluding Tunisian, Mesopotamian Arabic and various dialects in the Arabian Peninsula which still include it).

Voiceless palatal fricative

The voiceless palatal fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ç⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is C. It is the non-sibilant equivalent of the voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant.

The symbol ç is the letter c with a cedilla, as used to spell French and Portuguese words such as façade and ação. However, the sound represented by the letter ç in French and Portuguese orthography is not a voiceless palatal fricative but /s/, the voiceless alveolar fricative.

Palatal fricatives are relatively rare phonemes, and only 5% of the world's languages have /ç/ as a phoneme. The sound occurs, however, as an allophone of /x/ in German, or, in other languages, of /h/ in the vicinity of front vowels.

There is also the voiceless post-palatal fricative in some languages, which is articulated slightly more back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical voiceless palatal fricative, though not as back as the prototypical voiceless velar fricative. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ⟨ç̠⟩, ⟨ç˗⟩ (both symbols denote a retracted ⟨ç⟩) or ⟨x̟⟩ (advanced ⟨x⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are C_- and x_+, respectively.

Especially in broad transcription, the voiceless post-palatal fricative may be transcribed as a palatalized voiceless velar fricative (⟨xʲ⟩ in the IPA, x' or x_j in X-SAMPA).


Ṯāʾ (ث) is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being ḫāʾ, ḏāl, ḍād, ẓāʾ, ġayn). In Modern Standard Arabic it represents the voiceless dental fricative [θ], also found in English as the "th" in words such as "think" and "thin". In name and shape, it is a variant of tāʾ (ت). Its numerical value is 500 (see Abjad numerals).

The Arabic letter ث is named ثاء ṯāʾ. It is written is several ways depending in its position in the word:

In contemporary spoken Arabic, pronunciation of ṯāʾ as [θ] is found in the Arabian Peninsula, Iraqi, and Tunisian and other dialects and in highly educated pronunciations of Modern Standard and Classical Arabic. Pronunciation of the letter varies between and within the various varieties of Arabic: while it is consistently pronounced as the voiceless dental plosive [t] in Maghrebi Arabic (except Tunisian and eastern Libyan), on the other hand in the Arabic varieties of the Mashriq (in the broad sense, including Egyptian, Sudanese and Levantine) and Hejazi Arabic, it can be pronounced as either [t] or as the sibilant voiceless alveolar fricative [s]. Depending on the word in question, words pronounced as [s] are generally more technical or "sophisticated." Regardless of these regional differences, the pattern of the speaker's variety of Arabic frequently intrudes into otherwise Modern Standard speech; this is widely accepted, and is the norm when speaking the mesolect known alternately as lugha wusṭā ("middling/compromise language") or ʿAmmiyyat/Dārijat al-Muṯaqqafīn ("Educated/Cultured Colloquial") used in the informal speech of educated Arabs of different countries.

When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ת׳.

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