The voiceless pharyngeal fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is h-bar, ⟨ħ⟩.
Features of the voiceless pharyngeal fricative:
- 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.
- Its place of articulation is pharyngeal, which means it is articulated with the root of the tongue against the back of the throat (the pharynx).
- 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.
- Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the central–lateral dichotomy does not apply.
- The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.
This sound is the most commonly cited realization of the Semitic letter hēth, which occurs in all dialects of Arabic, Classical Syriac, as well as Biblical and Tiberian Hebrew but not modern Hebrew. It has also been reconstructed as appearing in Ancient Egyptian, a related Afro-Asiatic language. Modern non-Oriental Hebrew has merged the voiceless pharyngeal fricative with the voiceless velar (or uvular) fricative. However, phonetic studies have shown that the so-called voiceless pharyngeal fricatives of Semitic languages are often neither pharyngeal (but rather epiglottal) nor fricatives (but rather approximants).
See also 
- Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19815-6
- Regueira, Xose (1996), "Galician", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 26 (2): 119–122
- Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press