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Could someone please clarify the relationship between this and fricative? -- SS 03:02, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)

A sibilant is a type of fricative that has a high "second formant" spike on its waveform. Basically, what it means is that there's a distinct "whistling" sound that can be heard in a sibilant. But sibilants are just a subset of fricatives that have unusual phonetic properties. thefamouseccles 03:12, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
In articulation, a sibilant has a narrow channel in the tongue that other fricatives lack. You can have a non-sibilant alveolar fricative, for instance; this is transcribed as a raised approximant (a turned 'r' with a "tack" under it). kwami 10:36, 2005 Jun 2 (UTC)

The sibilant/non-sibilant distinction is especially important in English. Most people consciously know that to pluralize a regular English noun, they simply add an -s to it. But what they know only subconciously is that English plurals can take three forms (allomorphs), those being [s], [z], and [əz]. [s] occurs after most voiceless sounds, and [z] occurs after most voiced sounds. The sequence [əz] fills in the rest, and occurs after sibilants, i.e. [s, z, ʃ, ʒ]. Thus, distinguishing between sibilants and non-sibilants is extremely important in English.

I removed this, because this phenomenon is merely a process of inserting an epenthetic schwa to avoid two consecutive instances of the same consonant. The same thing happens when one adds the past tense suffix -ed to a word: when the last letter is not t or d, we can just tack the suffix on: ease ([i:z]) + -ed produces phonetic [i:zd], but if we try it with raid ([rejd]), then we say [rejdəd] and not [rejd:]. It has nothing to do with sibilants. thefamouseccles 03:17, 20 May 2005 (UTC)

English plural sibilant distinction[edit]

Just to be clear, English nouns ending in a sibilant take the plural allomorph [ez]. thefamouseccles, you are exactly correct in your assesment of the english past tense, that verbs ending in t and d take the past tense [ed]. However, the plural situation is different, because a word like JUDGE which ends in an affricate -- which can be a sibilant because it shares qualities of fricatives -- still gets the [ez] plural allomorph. Even if you just wanted to look at the fricative part, you end up with just the [ʒ] sound (like in 'genre'), which is hardly found in English at all. So, it isn't about avoiding two consecutive instances of the same consonant, though that is what the past tense is.


I'm taking this back out. Thefamouseccles is correct: the epenthetic schwa breaks up sequences of similar consonants. What's going on with the sibilants is no different from what's going on with the past tense: the schwa comes between sequences of coronals, whether fricatives or stops. This demonstrates the unity of the articulatory category "coronal", but not "sibilant". kwami 10:27, 2005 Jun 2 (UTC)

Grooved fricative[edit]

Are "sibilant" and "grooved fricative" synonymous? --Ptcamn 07:59, 24 April 2006 (UTC)

I believe they are. kwami 07:16, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
I think so too. The sibilant term is focusing on an acoustic classification while the grooved term is focusing on an articulatory classification. However, we dont know as much about the articulation of the midline of the tongue for many languages simply because we dont have data collected on tongue shapes (it is time consuming to collect shapes compared to just recording the sounds). So, we dont really have a definite answer at this time, as far as I can tell. Incidentally, in American English, some vowels have grooves in the midline of the tongue — these vowels clearly are not sibilant. So, although a groove may be a necessary condition for creating a sibilant sound, there are grooves that are not used for sibilants. – ishwar  (speak) 00:20, 8 May 2008 (UTC)
See for some cool tongue shapes of English [æ]. – ishwar  (speak) 00:22, 8 May 2008 (UTC)


Just so you guys know, this page has almost nothing to explain to a layman the meaning of the word "Sibilant". You're discussing the subject as though anyone coming to the page will have some education on phonetics and languages in general, and you are totally ignoring any laymen who stumble in here just looking for a simple description of which sounds would be classified as sibilant. (i.e. me)

Maybe one of you who knows more about the subject could include a section at the beginning (where you describe the process of making the sounds) giving a few examples in plain english? I know that would have helped me immensely. - Toad, 12 April, 2007, 10:51 AM EDT.

Maybe putting how you write these syllables/examples would help... Hrcolyer (talk) 12:32, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
I'd have to agree. This article is pretty much useless to an average layman. (talk) —Preceding undated comment was added at 21:18, 25 January 2009 (UTC).
Absolutely agreed. This article is absurd for non-linguists. The spirit of Wikipedia is to be informative to all - and this article is not. Indeed, this seems to be a common theme on the transliteration and phonetic-related wiki pages. In the References section, I shall add a link to an International Phonetic Alphabet Chart with pronunciation sound files. This ought to help non linguists surmount what might be construed as hopeless ivory tower linguistobabble. (talk) 17:10, 6 February 2009 (UTC)


The authors of this page have been good at including references in the writing, but there is no reference list at the base of the article giving the full details of the references. Please could someone who knows the full references insert these at the bottom of the article, thanks,(George-E (talk) 19:42, 2 March 2008 (UTC)).


The spin-off terms shibilant, and rarely thibilant, are used to describe particular kinds of sibilant.

I don't believe interdental fricatives are considered sibilants. If I'm correct, the reference to "thibilants" as kinds of sibilants is erroneous and should be removed or amended.--Atkinson (talk) 08:12, 2 April 2009 (UTC)

Yes, at least according to both this article and thibilant. (talk) 03:57, 21 July 2009 (UTC)
I've corrected the article. It seems like thibilant is extremely rare and used only in analogy to sibilant (that is, defining sounds by what they are not) so I've moved thibilant to redirect to here. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 23:56, 22 January 2010 (UTC)
The term "thibilant" is so rare that I just took it out entirely. There are hardly any legitimate non-WP refs I can find on Google. Benwing (talk) 01:13, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Smaller Inventories than English?[edit]

Aren't there also languages which don't even distinguish the alveolar and palato-alveolar sibilants? Modern Greek comes to mind. -- (talk) 18:06, 28 October 2009 (UTC)

Plain English[edit]

I agree with an earlier comment that this article is of no use to the general reader. It is written by people with a lot of knowledge for other people with a lot of knowledge.

Wikipedia pages should aim to help the lay reader, they are not aimed at experts wanting greater knowledge.

It needs some plain English explanations. For example, the opening paragraph needs a simple list of the letters/sounds that are sibilants.

Joff203.0.223.244 (talk) 01:41, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

Do you have any other suggestions? Surely the lack of examples in the first paragraph isn't the only thing making this article difficult to understand for a lay reader. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 01:45, 22 February 2010 (UTC)


Ben, some of those examples is the "IPA" table aren't IPA. A macron would mean mid tone, for example, and there are two kinds of underline in the table when the IPA has just one (retraction). Are some of the others combos even attested? — kwami (talk) 04:06, 22 May 2011 (UTC)

Hey, this is way late but it looks like you addressed some of these issues. The problem here is that the IPA simply doesn't have enough symbols to indicate all the different varieties of sibilants. The "macron above" you seem to have solved (??) by using two diacritics below. IMO this is only marginally less ad-hoc than the macron above, and harder to typeset, and arguably OR (the macron-above is actually found in the articles I cite in discussing this sound); OTOH the macron-above is admittedly non-IPA while the double diacritic is IPA. The lack of proper IPA symbols -- and even of proper terminology -- is particularly unfortunate because it means that phonetic descriptions rarely contain enough info to indicate which sounds are actually being used.
I also have to admit to still being somewhat confused about the sound described as "apico-alveolar". In particular it's extremely hard to reconcile the statements in Ladefoged/Maddieson made by the phoneticians who study the Spanish and Basque dialects containing this sound with the discussion about a supposedly "apical" articulation of /s/ supposedly found in some large percentage of English speakers. The Spanish/Basque phoneticians are consistent in noting that this sound is quite different from "English [s]", in that it sounds somewhat like English [ʃ], and in fact all three sounds are phonemic in Basque. Yet Ladefoged's discussion claims not only that both apical and laminal variants are common among English speakers, but that this is rarely noticed, and that the difference appears to depend largely on an individual speaker's anatomy, which suggests that the two variants sound nearly identical. I personally cannot make any sort of tongue-up sibilant that sounds remotely like English [s]. Instead, I can make two quite distinct sounds depending on tongue shape. One sounds like [ʃ] but sharper (presumably the same sound as in Spanish/Basque), the other sounds like [θ] but sharper (consistent with the descriptions of the "lisping sibilant" present in Southeastern Spain according to Dalbor and Obaid, who both indicate that this sound is quite different from all the other sounds mentioned in this paragraph). The Spanish sound is often described as being mistaken for [ʃ], and in fact was often transcribed as such in Arabic documents (and likewise, the 'sh' in English push < French pousser, cash < caisse, rush < ruser, fashion < façon, etc. is often thought to reflect an apico-alveolar pronunciation in Old and Middle French). I can't believe that either (a) I would have heard this variant used by any English speakers and not noticed it; or (b) that the sound comes out sounding like this for me, but for "some people's anatomy" it sounds more like [s], because that would suggest that some large percentage of Basque or Old Spanish wouldn't be able to pronounce the apico-alveolar sound in a way that clearly distinguished it from [s]. So I have to assume that either (a) Ladefoged is completely confused; or (b) he's referring to something else entirely (in which I have no idea what). Benwing (talk) 01:26, 21 January 2013 (UTC)
I had always assumed I knew what L&M were talking about, but then I heard that Lyndon B. Johnson's speech was notable for its (regionally marked) feature of sort of esh-like esses which I understand to be some sort of apical pronunciation. Maybe most speakers don't notice the difference unless it's pointed out to them...— Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 15:09, 21 January 2013 (UTC)


The introduction to this article doesn't make a distinction between a sibilant and a stop + sibilant affricate, and this inaccurateness is ferociously defended by User: Kwamikagami. (talk) 21:52, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

What is the difference between a sibilant fricative and a sibilant affricate? — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 22:53, 17 March 2012 (UTC)

Copy/paste error?[edit]

I'm having trouble parsing the following sentence. I think my problem is that non-sibilant seems to be used as an adjective twice for the same instance of "fricative". It also seems to me that fricative should be plural. It really just looks like there's a bunch of words missing here.

The grooving often considered necessary for classification as a sibilant has been observed in ultrasound studies of the tongue for supposedly non-sibilant [θ] voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative.

Kslattery (talk) 19:01, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Maybe something like "In certain ultrasound tongue studies, the grooving that is often considered necessary for classification as a sibilant has been observed in the supposedly non-sibilant voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative ([θ]]."
I didn't know they did ultrasound tongue studies, though. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 19:20, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I've found the reference and tweaked the statement. --JorisvS (talk) 19:22, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Brazilian postalveolar fricative[edit]

This article says Brazilian postalveolar fricative is the same of Japanese based on an IPA chart in a source about Italian accent spoke by Portuguese speakers.

But OLIVEIRA 2011, says in Análise acústica de sequências de fricativas e africadas por japoneses aprendizes de português brasileiro, from Universidade Federal do Paraná, page 1504, the Brazilian ones are laminal palatoalveolar fricatives [ʃ], [ʒ], and says it may be mispronounced by Japanese speakers as laminodorso palatoalveolar [ɕ].

Citation: Diferentemente de [ʃ ʒ], [ɕ ʑ] são realizados com o dorso da língua alçado, de forma a aproximar-se ou tocar a região imediatamente posterior aos alvéolos, e a ponta tocando a área logo abaixo dos dentes inferiores (OLIVEIRA 2011 apud AKAMATSU 1997).

In pages 1509-1509, with use of Praat software, measured Brazilian an Japanese alveolar and postalveolar sibilants, from 1 Brazilian and 3 Japanese speaking Portuguese words, and there where differences about 2000Hz in the pronunciations of the words Chico, bexiga, mexida, and Chipre, between the Brazilian and Japanese (page 1511, only 1 Japanese didn't mispronounced these words).--Luizdl (talk) 02:36, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Well, I had problems in conecting with Wikipedia today, because of server. I am accessing by the mobile version.
Anyway, this is from Paraná. PARANÁ YOU GET IT, WHERE MOST PEOPLE DON'T PALATALIZE DENTAL STOPS (and coda sibilant /S/). And nearly no one palatalized until, what, 1970s? Or after?! They have alveolar trills, coda [l], and the coda rhotic is alveolar tap in the prestige variant and retroflex approximant in the others... Is this still Brazil?! Phonologically, I think no. Nor is it Portugal, they have a quite impressive lack of vowel reduction. The one that was supposed to be my Biology teacher has an accent from there, it is hugely notorious.
It isn't over. Lguipontes (talk) 01:26, 27 March 2013 (UTC)
Wait, what? It says "lamino-palatoalveolar". This is pretty much saying what the Italian source says, without mentioning it is slightly palatalized. Reading canIPA I remember quite well with the meaning Canepari wanted to give the PDF: "sometimes [the coda] is palatalized lamino-alveolar, but most often palatalized laminopalatoalveolar". Canepari also clearly wanted to say that East Asian alveolopalatal is different from the palatalized palatoalveolar found in Brazilian Portuguese and, say, Catalan. This source is repeating something we all already knew! By the Lord, editing about Portuguese phonology is such a soapy fish!
Citation: Vale notar que não estamos afirmando, com isso, que a realização fonética desses sons nessas diferentes línguas [(Spanish, English, Portuguese)] seja exatamente igual, mas em geral podemos unificar notação e denominação desses sons por questões de clareza e simplicidade.
Luiz, meu xará, we already have a source saying Brazilian and European Portuguese have different sounds. Further, they try to remark that they are not saying Portuguese x is a "next door European sh". Further, the Brazilian control of the study is a paranaense with a self-reported advanced English profficiency. Those studying the subject are probably also from Paraná, with its Europeanized and insular phonology, reading a Portugal-centered literature. In Catalonia no one described the sibilants with the symbols we use to transcribe Japanese here, even if it is slightly palatalized, because of tradition. Lguipontes (talk) 01:26, 27 March 2013 (UTC)
The Canepari source is nice, but take note that the guy doesn't back up his statements with citations or point to any research done. This means that we should take what he says with a grain of salt. In this case, it seems that a source that provides formant data contradicts what Canepari says about BP postalveolars. — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 15:04, 27 March 2013 (UTC)
There is a single Brazilian control in the study, that speaks an unusual quite insular (from a carioca, or even paulistano, viewpoint) dialect. We can say, "southern BP is especially different from other BP" (something that source on our 'lh' said), but not "all BP is the same and this is the same of EP". I already knew it probably wasn't palatalized palato-alveolar but "normal" palato-alveolar by there, as you can note in the transcription I gave the word "gaúcho" in its native pronunciation in the list of Brazilian dialects in Portuguese language (well, at least their sound is noticeably different from my /S/, [tʲ], [dʲ], /ʃ/ and /ʒ/). Anyway, the alveolo-palatal of Japanese this source talks about is not the same of that of Catalan and BP, as Luizdl pointed out in his talkpage in the Portuguese Wikipedia what academia regards as "alveolo-palatal" is a double articulation rather than just a palatalization. What I am saying is that this source doesn't contradicts Canepari and the Brazilian one (that says it is different from the Italian postalveolar) in Brazil having palatalized ones, it just tells something not in any rate different from what Canepari meant (they even make it clear that the palato-alveolar of Portuguese is not necessarily the same of that in other languages).
I believe that if the sources I provided are really reliable, unless we disregard Catalan as alveolo-palatal in Wikipedia, for the sake of consistency the sources on BP are still valid. Lguipontes (talk) 17:13, 27 March 2013 (UTC)
Where are we getting the idea that Catalan has a different postalveolar than Mandarin or Japanese? — Ƶ§œš¹ [ãːɱ ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɪ̃ə̃nlɪ] 17:48, 27 March 2013 (UTC)
Wasn't it a laminal palatalized postalveolar (as the one Canepari reports being that of BP)? I believe I really did read so (I can't tell when and where, I'm really sorry), possibly when I was reading old discussions on Catalan phonology. Most here were skeptic as the overwhelming majority of academia did not report that it was an "uncommon" sound (people don't expect [ɕ] to pop up in Romance languages AFAIK) and a single source describe it as alveolopalatal but using [ʃ] and ʒ for transcription. Perhaps many still think that the [ʆ ~ ʓ] x [ɕ ~ ʑ] distinction is particularly useful, and that the former are much closer to the palato-alveolar equivalents. Note that in one of the PDFs, Canepari's transcription conventions distinguish palatalized postalveolar from the pre-palatal he reports as being that of Mandarin. Since BP seems to have the former sounds and a source distinguishes it from Japanese (that is always transcribed in Linguistics circles with the same used for Mandarin, unlike any variant of Portuguese and Catalan), it seems pretty much logical to me. The Brazilian source Luiz presented says Japanese is dorsal alveolopalatal (i.e. pre-palatal), a different point of articulation (and the same Canepari described for Mandarin). Lguipontes (talk) 00:56, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
Yep, Canepari uses non-labialized palatalized lamino-postalveolar for Brazilian Portuguese and Catalan, and bilabialized prepalatal (i.e. dorsal alveolopalatal) for Japanese and Mandarin. Ctrl+F "catala", examples 15 to 18. Ctrl+F "japan". And it is not only there that describes Catalan and East Asian postalveolar sibilants as different. So yeah. Lguipontes (talk) 01:26, 28 March 2013 (UTC)