Voiceless palatal fricative

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Voiceless palatal fricative
IPA number 138
Entity (decimal) ç
Unicode (hex) U+00E7
Kirshenbaum C
Braille ⠖ (braille pattern dots-235) ⠉ (braille pattern dots-14)

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. 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, Portuguese and English 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.[1] The sound occurs, however, as an allophone of /x/ in German, or, in other languages, of /h/ in the vicinity of front vowels, such as the non-silent 'h' of huge as in most dialects of English.


Features of the voiceless palatal 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 palatal, which means it is articulated with the middle or back part of the tongue raised to the hard palate.
  • 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
Azerbaijani[2] Some dialects çörək [tʃœˈɾæç] 'bread' Allophone of /c/.
Berber Kabyle il [çil] 'to measure'
Dutch acht [ɑçt] 'eight' Common in southern dialects such as all of Dutch-speaking Belgium and southern provinces of the Netherlands.[3] See Dutch phonology
English[4][5] hue About this sound [çuː]  'hue' Allophone of /h/. See English phonology
Finnish vihko [ˈʋiçko̞] 'notebook' Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
German nicht About this sound [nɪçt]  'not' Allophone of /x/. See German phonology
Greek[6] χιόνι chióni [ˈç̠o̞ni] 'snow' Somewhat retracted. See Modern Greek phonology
Haida xíl [çɪ́l] 'leaf'
Hungarian[7] kapj [ˈkɒpç] 'get' (imperative) Allophone of /j/ between a voiceless obstruent and a word boundary. See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic hérna [çjɛrtna] 'here' See Icelandic phonology
Irish a Sheáin [ə çaːnʲ] 'John' (voc.) See Irish phonology
Japanese[8] hito [çi̥to̞] 'person' Allophone of /h/ before /i/ and /j/. See Japanese phonology
Korean him [çim] 'strength' Allophone of /h/. See Korean phonology
Norwegian kyss [çʏsː] 'kiss' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto Ghilzai and Wardak dialects[9] پښه [pça] 'foot'
Scottish Gaelic[10] eich [eç] 'horses'
Spanish Chilean[11] mujer [muˈçe̞r] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Uzbek[12] [example needed] Pre-velar with little friction.[12] Occurs word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it's post-velar.
Walloon texhe [tɛç] 'to knit'
Xârâcùù[13]  ? [çɛɡɛ] 'stone'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:167–68)
  2. ^ Damirchizadeh (1972:96)
  3. ^ Pieter van Reenen; Nanette Huijs (2000), "De harde en de zachte g, de spelling gh versus g voor voorklinker in het veertiende-eeuwse Middelnederlands.", Taal en Tongval, 52 (Thema nr.), 159–181 (in Dutch), retrieved 2009-05-04 
  4. ^ Roach (2009:43)
  5. ^ Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2010-12-28 
  6. ^ Arvaniti (2007:20)
  7. ^ Siptár & Törkenczy (2007:205)
  8. ^ Okada (1991:95)
  9. ^ Henderson (1983:595)
  10. ^ Oftedal (1956:?)
  11. ^ Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Page 113
  12. ^ a b Sjoberg (1963:11)
  13. ^ Tryon (1995)


  • Arvaniti, Amalia (2007), "Greek Phonetics: The State of the Art", Journal of Greek Linguistics 8: 97–208 
  • Damirchizadeh, A (1972), Modern Azerbaijani Language: Phonetics, Orthoepy and Orthography, Maarif Publ 
  • Henderson, Michael M. T. (1983), "Four Varieties of Pashto", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 103 (3): 595–597, JSTOR 602038 
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19815-6 
  • Oftedal, M. (1956), The Gaelic of Leurbost, Oslo: Norsk Tidskrift for Sprogvidenskap 
  • Okada, Hideo (1991), "Japanese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 21 (2): 94–97, doi:10.1017/S002510030000445X 
  • Roach, Peter (2009), English Phonetics and Phonology: A Practical Course 1 (4th ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-71740-3 
  • Siptár, Péter; Törkenczy, Miklós (2007), The Phonology of Hungarian, The Phonology of the World's Languages, Oxford University Press 
  • Sjoberg, Andrée F. (1963), Uzbek Structural Grammar 
  • Tryon, Darrell T. (1995), Comparative Austronesian Dictionary, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-012729-6