Voiceless alveolar fricative

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The voiceless alveolar fricatives are 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 by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the teeth 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 θ͇ ɻ̝̊
tapped ɾ̞̊
Coronal sibilants
of articulation
ʂ retroflex
secondary palatalized coronal
ɕ alveolo-palatal
ʃ palato-alveolar
labialized coronal
velarized coronal
pharyngealized coronal
voice-onset time aspirated coronal

Voiceless alveolar sibilant[edit]

Voiceless alveolar sibilant
IPA Number132
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)s
Unicode (hex)U+0073
Braille⠎ (braille pattern dots-234)
Voiceless dentalized alveolar sibilant
IPA Number130
Voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant
Audio sample
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 most Australian Aboriginal languages, in which fricatives are rare; however, [s] does occur in Kalaw Lagaw Ya.[3]

Voiceless apico-alveolar sibilant[edit]

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.

Occurrence in Europe[edit]


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 and Pastuso, 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,[citation needed] 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,[4] 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.[5] A solid type of evidence consists of 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 wīz "white" (Old English wīt) vs. wīs(e) "way" (Old English wīs, cf. "-wise").

Description of the retracted sibilant[edit]

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:[6] "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.[4]

Loss of the voiceless alveolar sibilant[edit]

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] (seseo). However, in the Spanish of central and northern Spain, the non-retracted [s] was fronted to [θ] after merging with non-retracted [z], while the retracted [s̺] remains (distinción). Distinción is also preserved in Spanish orthography on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • 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 [ʃ], while in most of Brazilian Portuguese this phenomenon is much rarer, being essentially absent in the dialects that 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 German, [s̺] was early on voiced to [z̺] in prevocalic position. This sound was then fronted to [z], but did not merge with any other sound (except that it was later re-devoiced in some southern dialects). In pre-consonantal and final position, [s̺] merged with either [s] or [ʃ]. The rules for these mergers differ between dialects. In Standard German, [ʃ] is used stem-initially and sporadically after ‹r›. Especially in Alemannic, every pre-consonantal [s̺] became [ʃ].

Loss-causing events[edit]

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 through a [t] > [ts] > [s] process, as in German Wasser compared to 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 schiff and English ship compared to Danish skib.


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

The Germanic-speaking regions that did not have either phenomenon have normally preserved the apical [s̺], that is, Icelandic, Dutch and many Scandinavian lects. It is also found in a minority of Low German dialects.

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, Catalan and Ladino changed only [s].

Reach in ancient times[edit]

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 > Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs) > Latin Jesus, Hebrew Shabbat > Latin sabbatum; but this could also be explained by the lack of a better sound in Latin to represent Semitic š. 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,[5] 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.

Voiceless lamino-dental sibilant[edit]

A voiceless laminal dental or dentialveolar sibilant contrasts with a voiceless apical alveolar or post-alveolar sibilant in Basque and several languages of California, including Luiseño of the Uto-Aztecan family and Kumeyaay of the Yuman family.

Comparison between English and Spanish[edit]

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[7] claim that English /s/ can be pronounced apically, which is evidently not the same as the apical sibilant of Iberian Spanish and Basque. Also, Adams[8] 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[8] describes the northern Iberian sibilant as "retracted". Ladefoged and Maddieson[7] 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.[9]
    • 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 intercostal muscles and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Dentalized laminal alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Arabic Gulf[10] مسجد/masjid [mɐˈs̪d͡ʒɪd̪] 'mosque'
Armenian Eastern[11] սար/sar [s̪ɑɾ]i 'mountain'
Azerbaijani[12] su [s̪u] 'water'
Basque[13] gauza [ɡäus̪ä] 'thing' Contrasts with an apical sibilant.[13] See Basque phonology
Belarusian[14] стагоддзе/stagoddze [s̪t̪äˈɣod̪d̪͡z̪ʲe] 'century' Contrasts with palatalized form. See Belarusian phonology
Bulgarian[15] всеки/vseki [ˈfs̪ɛkʲi] 'everyone' Contrasts with palatalized form.
Chinese Mandarin[16][17] sān [s̪a̋n] 'three' See Mandarin phonology
Czech[18] svět [s̪vjɛt̪] 'world' See Czech phonology
Chuvash савăт [s̪aʋət] 'vessel, glass'
English Auckland[19] sand [s̪ɛnˑd̥] 'sand' See English phonology
Multicultural London[20] [s̪anˑd̥]
French[21][22][23] façade [fäs̪äd̪] 'front' See French phonology
Hungarian[24] sziget [ˈs̪iɡɛt̪] 'island' See Hungarian phonology
Kashubian[25] [example needed]
Kazakh[26] сом [s̪u̯ʊm] 'pure'
Kyrgyz[27] сабиз/sabiz [s̪äˈbis̪] 'carrot'
Latvian[28] sens [s̪en̪s̪] 'ancient' See Latvian phonology
Macedonian[29] скока/skoka [ˈs̪kɔkä] 'jump' See Macedonian phonology
Mirandese [example needed] Contrasts seven sibilants altogether, preserving medieval Ibero-Romance contrasts.
Polish[9][30] sum [s̪um]i 'catfish' See Polish phonology
Romanian[31] surd [s̪ur̪d̪] 'deaf' See Romanian phonology
Russian[32] волосы/volosy [ˈvo̞ɫ̪əs̪ɨ̞]i 'hair' Contrasts with palatalized form. See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[33] Slàinte [ˈs̪ɫ̪äːn̪t̪ʰʲə] 'cheers' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian[34][35] село/selo [s̪ĕ̞lo̞] 'village' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Slovene[36] svet [s̪ʋêːt̪] 'world' See Slovene phonology
Spanish Iberian[37] estar [e̞s̪ˈt̪äɾ] 'to be' Allophone of /s/ before dental consonants.[37] See Spanish phonology
Swedish[38] Central Standard[39][40] säte [ˈs̪ɛːt̪e] 'seat' Retracted in some southern dialects.[41] See Swedish phonology
Toda[42][43] கொவ்/kos [kɔs̪] 'money' Contrasts ʃ ʂ/. Voiced allophones are found in fast speech.[44]
Turkish[21][45] su [s̪u] 'water' See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[46] село/selo [s̪ɛˈɫ̪ɔ] 'village' See Ukrainian phonology
Upper Sorbian[47] sowa [ˈs̪ovä] 'owl' See Upper Sorbian phonology
Uzbek[48] soat [ˈs̪o̞æt̪] 'hour'
Vietnamese Hanoi[49] xa [s̪äː] 'far' See Vietnamese phonology

Non-retracted alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe сэ/sė [sa] 'I'
Arabic Modern Standard[50] جَلَسَ/ǧalasa [ˈdʒælæsɐ] 'to sit' See Arabic phonology
Assyrian ܣܝܦܐ sèpa [seːpaː] 'sword'
Bengali রাস্তা [raːst̪a] 'street' See Bengali phonology
Burmese စစားဗျီ/ca carr bhye [sə bjì] 'I am eating now'
Chechen сурт / surt [suʊrt] 'picture'
Chinese Cantonese / sim2 [siːm˧˥] 'twinkle' See Cantonese phonology
Dutch Belgian Standard[51] staan [staːn] 'to stand' Laminal.[51] See Dutch phonology
Emilian and Romagnol sèl [ˈs̺ʲɛːl] 'salt' Palatalized apical;[52] may be [ʂ] or [ʃ] instead.[52]
Estonian sõna [ˈsɤnɑ] 'word'
English sit [sɪt]i 'sit' See English phonology
Esperanto Esperanto [espeˈranto] 'Who hopes' See Esperanto phonology
Faroese sandur [sandʊɹ] 'sand'
Georgian[53] ამი/sami [ˈsɑmi] 'three'
Hebrew ספר/sefer [ˈsefeʁ] 'book' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindustani साल / سال [saːl] 'year' See Hindustani phonology
Japanese[54] 複数形 / fukusūkē [ɸɯkɯsɯːkeː] 'plural' See Japanese phonology
Kabardian сэ/sė [sa] 'I'
Khmer អេស្ប៉ាញ / éspanh [ʔeːˈspaːɲ] noun: 'Spain'
adjective: 'Spanish'
See Khmer phonology
ម៉ាស៊ីន / masin [maːˈsiːn] 'machine'
Korean / seom [sʌːm] 'island' See Korean phonology
Malay satu [satu] 'one'
Maltese iebes [eaˈbes] 'hard'
Marathi साप [saːp] 'snake' See Marathi phonology
Nepali गरमाथा [sʌɡʌrmät̪ʰä] 'Mount Everest' See Nepali phonology
Odia ମାନ [sɔmänɔ] 'equal'
Occitan Limousin maichent [mejˈsẽ] 'bad'
Persian سیب / sib [sib] 'apple' See Persian phonology
Portuguese[55] caço [ˈkasu] 'I hunt' See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਸੱਪ/sapp [səpː] 'snake'
Spanish[37] Latin American saltador [s̻a̠l̪t̪a̠ˈð̞o̞r] 'jumper' See Spanish phonology and Seseo
Swahili Kiswahili [kiswaˈhili] 'Swahili'
Sylheti ꠢꠂꠍꠦ/oise [ɔise] 'done'
Tagalog lasa [ˈlasɐ] 'taste'
Vietnamese[56] xa [saː˧] 'far' See Vietnamese phonology
Yi sy [sɹ̩˧] 'die'

Retracted alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Asturian pasu [ˈpäs̺u] 'step' Apical.
Basque[13][57] su [s̺u] 'fire' Apical. Contrasts with a dentalized laminal sibilant.[13][57]
Bengali[58] /śô [s̠ɔː] 'hundred' See Bengali phonology
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.
patisc [päˈt̪is̠ʲk] 'I suffer'
English Glasgow[62] sun [s̺ʌn] 'sun' Working-class pronunciation, other speakers may use a non-retracted [s]
Emilian sèinpar [ˈs̠æ̃.pər] 'always'
Galician saúde [s̺äˈuðe] 'health' Apical.
Icelandic[63][64] segi [ˈs̺ɛːjɪ] 'I say' Apical.[63][64] See Icelandic phonology
Italian Central Italy[65] sali [ˈs̠äːli] 'you go up' Present in Lazio north of Cape Linaro,[65] most of Umbria[65]
(save Perugia and the extreme south),[65] Marche and south of Potenza.[65]
Northern Italy[66][67] Apical.[68] Present in many areas north of the La Spezia–Rimini Line.[69][70] Derived from local languages of northern Italy.
See Italian phonology
Sicily[65] Present south and west of a line drawn from Syracuse to Cefalù.[65]
Leonese pasu [ˈpäs̺ʊ] 'step' Apical.
Low German[41] [example needed]
Mirandese passo [ˈpäs̺u] 'step' Apical. Contrasts with /s̪/.
Occitan Gascon dos [d̻ys̺] 'two' See Occitan phonology
Languedocien [d̻us̺]
Piedmontese sapin [s̠apiŋ] 'pine' Apical.
Portuguese[55][71] European,
inland northern
cansaço [kɐ̃ˈs̺as̻u] 'weariness' Apical. Contrasts with /s̻/. See Portuguese phonology
coastal northern
[kɐ̃ˈs̺as̺u] 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 coronal-dental /s/.[72][73]
See Spanish phonology and seseo
Paisa accent
Swedish Blekinge[41] säte [ˈs̠ɛːte] 'seat' See Swedish phonology
Toda[42][43] [po:s̠] 'milk' Contrasts ʃ ʂ/. Voiced allophones are found in fast speech.[44]
Vietnamese Saigon[74] xe [s̺ɛ˧] 'vehicle' Apical.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Danish[75][76][77] sælge [ˈseljə] 'sell' Most often non-retracted apical, but can be dentalized laminal for some speakers.[75][76][77] See Danish phonology
Dutch Northern Standard[78][79] staan [staːn] 'to stand' Laminal. It is laxer than in English, has a graver friction and is sometimes labialized. It is retracted when preconsonantal, after rounded vowels and /r/.[78] See Dutch phonology
Finnish[80] sinä [ˈsinæ] 'you' Varies between non-retracted and retracted.[80] See Finnish phonology
German Standard[81] Biss [bɪs] 'bite' Varies between dentalized laminal, non-retracted laminal and non-retracted apical.[81] See Standard German phonology
Greek[82] σαν / san [sɐn] 'as' Varies between non-retracted and retracted, depending on the environment.[82] See Modern Greek phonology
Norwegian Urban East[83] sand [sɑnː] 'sand' Most often dentalized laminal, but can be non-retracted apical for some speakers.[83] See Norwegian phonology
Italian Standard[84] sali [ˈsäːli] 'you go up' Varies between dentalized laminal and non-retracted apical.[84] See Italian phonology
Ticino[68] Varies between dentalized laminal and non-retracted apical.[85] Both variants may be labiodentalized.[68] See Italian phonology
West Frisian[78] sâlt [sɔːt] 'salt' Laminal. It is laxer than in English and has a graver friction. It varies between retracted and non-retracted, depending on the environment.[78] See West Frisian phonology

Voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative[edit]

Voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative
IPA Number130 414
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)&#952;​&#817;
Unicode (hex)U+03B8 U+0331
Voiceless alveolar approximant
IPA Number151 402A
Voiceless alveolar tapped fricative
IPA Number124 402A 430
Unicode (hex)U+027E U+031E U+030A

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]).

Some scholars also posit the voiceless alveolar approximant distinct from the fricative. The approximant may be represented in the IPA as ɹ̥.

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.[86]

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.[86]


  • 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 intercostal muscles and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afenmai[86] aru [aɾ̞̊u] 'hat' Tapped; tense equivalent of lax /ɾ/.[86]
Dutch[87] Geert [ɣeːɹ̝̊t] 'Geert' One of many possible realizations of /r/; distribution unclear. See Dutch phonology
Emilian Bolognese[68] zidrån [θ̠iˈdrʌn] 'lemon'
English Australian[88] Italy [ˈɪ̟θ̠əɫɪi̯] 'Italy' Occasional allophone of /t/.[88] See Australian English phonology
Received Pronunciation[89] [ˈɪθ̠əli] Common allophone of /t/.[89]
Irish[90] Allophone of /t/. See English phonology
Some American speakers[95] [ˈɪɾ̞̊ɨ̞ɫi] Tapped; possible allophone of /t/. Can be a voiceless tap [ɾ̥] or a voiced tap [ɾ] instead.[95] See English phonology
Faroese[96] eiturkoppur [ˈaiːtʊɹ̥ˌkʰɔʰpːʊɹ] 'spider' Devoiced approximant allophone of /r/.[96] See Faroese phonology
Icelandic[64][97] þakið [ˈθ̠äkið̠] 'the roof' Laminal.[64][97] See Icelandic phonology
Turkish[98] bir [biɾ̞̊] 'a(n)' Tapped; word-final allophone of /ɾ/.[98] See Turkish phonology

In popular culture[edit]

The voiceless alveolar fricative was used by Capt Jean-Luc Picard in the TNG episode The Big Goodbye in a complicated greeting to representatives of an alien race.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pandeli et al. (1997), p. ?.
  2. ^ Maddieson (1984), p. ?.
  3. ^ Jessica Hunter; Claire Bowern; Erich Round (1 June 2011). "Reappraising the Effects of Language Contact in the Torres Strait". Journal of Language Contact. 4 (1): 106–140. doi:10.1163/187740911X558798. ISSN 1877-4091. Wikidata Q56228341.
  4. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. ?.
  5. ^ a b Vijūnas (2010).
  6. ^ Obaid (1973), p. ?.
  7. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. ?.
  8. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. 283.
  9. ^ a b Puppel, Nawrocka-Fisiak & Krassowska (1977), p. 149, cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 154
  10. ^ Qafisheh (1977), pp. 2, 9.
  11. ^ Kozintseva (1995), p. 7.
  12. ^ Axundov (1983), pp. 115, 128–131.
  13. ^ a b c d Hualde, Lujanbio & Zubiri (2010), p. 1. Although this paper discusses mainly the Goizueta dialect, the authors state that it has "a typical, conservative consonant inventory for a Basque variety".
  14. ^ Padluzhny (1989), p. 47.
  15. ^ Klagstad Jr. (1958), p. 46.
  16. ^ Lee & Zee (2003), pp. 109–110.
  17. ^ Lin (2001), pp. 17–25.
  18. ^ Palková (1994), p. 228.
  19. ^ Bauer & Warren (2004), p. 594.
  20. ^ "English speech services | Accent of the Year / sibilants in MLE". 31 December 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  21. ^ a b Adams (1975), p. 288.
  22. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1999), p. 79.
  23. ^ Grønnum (2005), p. 144.
  24. ^ Szende (1999), p. 104.
  25. ^ Jerzy Treder. "Fonetyka i fonologia". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
  26. ^ Kara (2002), p. 10.
  27. ^ Kara (2003), p. 11.
  28. ^ Nau (1998), p. 6.
  29. ^ Lunt (1952), p. 1.
  30. ^ Rocławski (1976), pp. 149.
  31. ^ Ovidiu Drăghici. "Limba Română contemporană. Fonetică. Fonologie. Ortografie. Lexicologie" (PDF). Retrieved April 19, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ Chew (2003), p. 67.
  33. ^ Lamb (2003), p. 18.
  34. ^ Kordić (2006), p. 5.
  35. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  36. ^ Pretnar & Tokarz (1980), p. 21.
  37. ^ a b c d Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 258.
  38. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 171.
  39. ^ Engstrand (1999), pp. 140–141.
  40. ^ Engstrand (2004), p. 167.
  41. ^ a b c d e f Adams (1975), p. 289.
  42. ^ a b Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 157.
  43. ^ a b Ladefoged (2005), p. 168.
  44. ^ a b Krishnamurti (2003), p. 66.
  45. ^ Zimmer & Orgun (1999), p. 154.
  46. ^ Buk, Mačutek & Rovenchak (2008).
  47. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 22, 38, 39.
  48. ^ Sjoberg (1963), p. 11.
  49. ^ Thompson (1987), pp. 8–9.
  50. ^ Thelwall (1990), p. 37.
  51. ^ a b Collins & Mees (2003), p. 190.
  52. ^ a b Canepari (1992), p. 73.
  53. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  54. ^ Okada (1999), p. 117.
  55. ^ a b Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  56. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458–461.
  57. ^ a b Hualde, J. Basque Phonology (1991) Routledge ISBN 0-415-05655-1
  58. ^ Suniti Kumar Chatterji (1921). "Bengali Phonetics". Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies. London. 2: 7. doi:10.1017/s0041977x0010179x. S2CID 246637825.
  59. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992), p. 54.
  60. ^ Torreblanca (1988), p. 347.
  61. ^ Saborit (2009), p. 12.
  62. ^ Annexe 4: Linguistic Variables
  63. ^ a b Kress (1982), pp. 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."
  64. ^ a b c d Pétursson (1971), p. ?, cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 145.
  65. ^ a b c d e f g Adams (1975), p. 286.
  66. ^ Adams (1975), pp. 285–286.
  67. ^ Canepari (1992), pp. 71–72.
  68. ^ a b c d Canepari (1992), p. 72.
  69. ^ Canepari (1992), p. 71.
  70. ^ Adams (1975), p. 285.
  71. ^ "2.3. Accenti romanze: Portogallo e Brasile (portoghese)" [Romance accents: Portugal and Brazil (Portuguese)] (PDF). Pronunce Straniere dell'Italiano [Foreign pronunciations of Italian] (in Italian). pp. 174–181. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-30.
  72. ^ Joaquín Montes Giraldo (1992), p. 527.
  73. ^ Betancourt Arango (1993), p. 285–286.
  74. ^ Thompson (1959).
  75. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), pp. 61 and 131.
  76. ^ a b Thorborg (2003), p. 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.
  77. ^ a b Grønnum (2005), p. 144. Only this author mentions both alveolar and dental realizations.
  78. ^ a b c d Collins & Mees (2003), pp. 145, 190.
  79. ^ Gussenhoven (1999), p. 75.
  80. ^ a b Suomi, Toivanen & Ylitalo (2008), p. 27.
  81. ^ a b Mangold (2005), p. 50.
  82. ^ a b Arvaniti (2007), p. 12.
  83. ^ a b Skaug (2003), pp. 130–131.
  84. ^ a b Canepari (1992), p. 68.
  85. ^ Canepari (1992), pp. 68 and 72.
  86. ^ a b c d Laver (1994), p. 263.
  87. ^ Collins & Mees (2003), p. 199. Authors do not say where exactly it is used.
  88. ^ a b Loakes & McDougall (2007), pp. 1445–1448.
  89. ^ a b Buizza (2011), pp. 16–28.
  90. ^ Hickey (1984), pp. 234–235.
  91. ^ Marotta & Barth (2005), p. 385.
  92. ^ Watson (2007), pp. 352–353.
  93. ^ Van Herk, Gerard (2010). "Identity Marking and Affiliation in an Urbanizing Newfoundland Community". Canadian English: A Linguistic Reader: 139.
  94. ^ Clarke, Sandra (2009). Hickey, Raymond (ed.). "The Legacy of British and Irish English in Newfoundland". Legacies of Colonial English. Studies in English Language: 242–261. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511486920. ISBN 9780521830201.
  95. ^ a b Laver (1994), pp. 263–264.
  96. ^ a b Árnason (2011), p. 115.
  97. ^ a b Grønnum (2005), p. 139.
  98. ^ a b Yavuz & Balcı (2011), p. 25.


External links[edit]