Voiceless labiodental affricate

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Voiceless labiodental affricate
Audio sample

The voiceless labiodental affricate ([p̪͡f] in IPA) is a rare affricate consonant that is initiated as a labiodental stop [p̪] and released as a voiceless labiodental fricative [f].

The XiNkuna dialect of Tsonga has this affricate, as in [tiɱp̪͡fuβu] "hippopotamuses" and aspirated [ɱp̪͡fʰuka] "distance" (compare [ɱfutsu] "tortoise", which shows that the stop is not epenthetic), as well as a voiced labiodental affricate, [b̪͡v], as in [ʃileb̪͡vu] "chin". There is no voiceless labiodental fricative [f] in this dialect of Tsonga, only a voiceless bilabial fricative, as in [ɸu] "finished". (Among voiced fricatives, both [β] and [v] occur, however.)

German has a similar sound /p͡f/ in Pfeffer /ˈp͡fɛfɐ/ ('pepper') and Apfel /ˈap͡fəl/ ('apple'). Phonotactically, this sound does not occur after long vowels, diphthongs or /l/. It differs from a true labiodental affricate in that it starts out bilabial but then the lower lip retracts slightly for the frication.

The sound occurs occasionally in English, in words where one syllable ends with "p" and the next starts with "f", like in "helpful" or "stepfather".


Features of the voiceless labiodental affricate:

  • Its manner of articulation is affricate, which means it is produced by first stopping the airflow entirely, then allowing air flow through a constricted channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence.
  • There are two variants of the stop component:
    • bilabial, which means it is articulated with both lips. The affricate with this stop component is called bilabial-labiodental.
    • labiodental, which means it is articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.
  • The fricative component of this affricate is labiodental, articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.
  • 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
English Some speakers helpful [ˈhɛɫp̚ˌp̪͡fəɫ] 'helpful' Occurs for some speakers in consonant clusters of /pf/
info [ˈɪɱˌp̪͡fəʊ̯] 'info' Allophone of /f/ after nasal consonants for some speakers as a form of epenthesis; usually occurs during fast and casual speech.
German Standard[1] Pfirsiche [ˈp͡fɪɐ̯zɪçə]i 'peaches' Bilabial-labiodental. [1] Arisen as a reflex of /p/ in the 8th century High German sound shift.[2] See Standard German phonology
Swiss dialects[3][4] Soipfe [ˈz̥oi̯p͡fə] 'soap' Bilabial-labiodental. The example word is from the Zurich dialect.
Italian Some central-south dialects[5] infatti [iɱˈp̪͡fät̪̚t̪i] 'indeed' Labiodental, allophone of /f/ after nasals.[5] See Italian phonology
Luxembourgish[6] Kampf [ˈkʰɑmp͡f] 'fight' Occurs only in German loanwords.[6] See Luxembourgish phonology
Ngiti[7] pfɔ̀mvɔ [p̪͡fɔ̀ɱ(b̪)vɔ̄] 'water spirit' Less commonly [p͡ɸ][8]
Kinyarwanda gupfundikira [gup̪͡fu:ndiciɾa] 'to close, seal'
Mandarin Xi'an dialect 猪/豬 zhū [p̪͡fú²¹] 'pig' From the labialization of retroflex stops in Middle Chinese
Slovene pfenig [ˈp̪féːnìk] 'pfennig' Rarely occurs, mostly in German loanwords. See Slovene phonology
Sopvoma[9] ōpfǒ [o̞˧p̪͡fo̞˦] 'father' Aspirated [p̪͡fʰ] in some words, in free variation. "ǒ" represents a "Higher Mid" tone between the Mid and Lower High tones found in some speakers.
Tsonga XiNkuna dialect timpfuvu [tiɱp̪͡fuβu] 'hippopotami' Contrasts with aspirated form.


  1. ^ a b Mangold (2005), p. 45.
  2. ^ Fausto Cercignani, The Consonants of German: Synchrony and Diachrony, Milano, Cisalpino, 1979.
  3. ^ Fleischer & Schmid (2006), p. 244.
  4. ^ Marti (1985), p. ?.
  5. ^ a b Canepari (1992), p. 71.
  6. ^ a b Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 72.
  7. ^ Kutsch Lojenga (1992), p. 31.
  8. ^ Kutsch Lojenga (1992), p. 45.
  9. ^ Giridhar, P P. "Mao Naga Grammar." 1994, p. 26. https://archive.org/details/dli.language.2262/page/n9/mode/2up


  • Canepari, Luciano (1992), Il MªPi – Manuale di pronuncia italiana [Handbook of Italian Pronunciation] (in Italian), Bologna: Zanichelli, ISBN 88-08-24624-8
  • Fleischer, Jürg; Schmid, Stephan (2006), "Zurich German" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 36 (2): 243–253, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002441
  • Gilles, Peter; Trouvain, Jürgen (2013), "Luxembourgish" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 67–74, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000278
  • Kutsch Lojenga, Constance (1994), Ngiti: a Central-Sudanic language of Zaire, Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag, ISBN 978-3-927620-71-1
  • Mangold, Max (2005) [First published 1962], Das Aussprachewörterbuch (6th ed.), Mannheim: Dudenverlag, ISBN 978-3-411-04066-7
  • Marti, Werner (1985), Berndeutsch-Grammatik, Bern: Francke, ISBN 3-7720-1587-5

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