Voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant

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Voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant[edit]

Voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant
IPA number 134
Entity (decimal) ʃ
Unicode (hex) U+0283
Kirshenbaum S
Braille ⠱ (braille pattern dots-156)

The voiceless palato-alveolar fricative or voiceless domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages, including English. In English, it is usually represented in writing with sh, as in ship.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʃ, the letter esh introduced by Isaac Pitman (not to be confused with the integral sign ). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is S.

An alternative symbol is š, an s with a háček, which is used in the Americanist phonetic notation and the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, as well as in the scientific and ISO 9 transliterations of Cyrillic. It originated with the Czech alphabet of Jan Hus and was adopted in Gaj's Latin alphabet and other Latin alphabets of Slavic languages. It also features in the orthographies of many Baltic, Finno-Lappic, North American and African languages.

Some scholars use the symbol /ʃ/ to transcribe the laminal variant of the voiceless retroflex sibilant. In such cases, the voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant is transcribed /ʃʲ/.


Features of the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative:

  • 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.
  • Its place of articulation is palato-alveolar, that is, domed (partially palatalized) postalveolar, which means it is articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge, and the front of the tongue bunched up ("domed") at the 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.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe шыд [ʃəd] 'donkey'
Albanian shtëpi [ʃtəˈpi] 'house'
Arabic Standard[1] شمس About this sound [ʃæms]  'sun' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[2] շուն About this sound [ʃun]  'dog'
Asturian xera [ʃe.ɾa] 'work'
Azerbaijani şeir [ʃeiɾ] 'poem'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic [ʃəkla] 'picture' or 'photo'
Basque kaixo [kajʃ̺o] 'hello'
Berber Kabyle ciwer [ʃiwər] 'to consult'
Breton chadenn [ˈʃa.dɛ̃n] 'chain'
Bulgarian юнашки [joˈnaʃki] 'heroically'
Czech kaše [ˈkaʃɛ] 'mash' See Czech phonology
Dutch[3] sjabloon About this sound [ʃäˈbloːn]  'template' May be [sʲ] or [ɕ] instead. See Dutch phonology
English sheep About this sound [ʃiːp]  'sheep' See English phonology
Esperanto ŝelko [ˈʃelko] 'suspenders' See Esperanto phonology
Faroese sjúkrahús [ʃʉukrahʉus] 'hospital'
French[4] cher About this sound [ʃɛʁ]  'expensive' See French phonology
Finnish šekki [ʃekːi] 'check' See Finnish phonology
Galician viaxe [ˈbjaʃe] 'trip'
Georgian[5] არი [ˈʃɑɾi] 'quibbling'
German Standard[6] schön [ʃʷø̈ːn] 'beautiful' Laminal or apico-laminal[6] and strongly labialized.[6] See German phonology
Greek Cypriot ασ̌σ̌ήμια [ɐˈʃːimɲɐ] 'ugliness' Contrasts with /ʃ/ and /ʒː/.
Hebrew שלום About this sound [ʃaˈlom]  'peace' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindi [ʃək] 'doubt' See Hindi-Urdu phonology
Hungarian segítség [ˈʃɛɡiːt͡ʃːeːɡ] 'help' See Hungarian phonology
Ilokano siák [ʃak] 'I'
Irish sí [ʃiː] 'she' See Irish phonology
Italian Marked accents of Emilia-Romagna[7] sali [ˈʃäːli] 'you go up' Apical;[7] not labialized;[7] may be [s̺ʲ] or [ʂ] instead.[7] It corresponds to [s] in standard Italian. See Italian phonology
Standard[8] fasce [ˈfaʃʃe] 'bands' See Italian phonology
Kabardian шыд [ʃɛd] 'donkey' Contrasts with a labialized form
Kashubian[9] [example needed]
Latvian šalle [ˈʃalːe] 'scarf'
Lingala shakú [ʃakú] 'Afrikan gray parrot'
Lithuanian šarvas [ˈʃɐrˑvɐs] 'armor'
Macedonian што [ʃtɔ] 'what' See Macedonian phonology
Malay syarikat [ʃarikat] 'company'
Maltese x'jismek [ʃismek] 'what is your name?'
Marathi ब्द [ˈʃəbˈd̪ə] 'word' See Marathi phonology
Mopan Maya kax [kɑːʃ] 'chicken'
[citation needed]
Bokmål sky [ʃyː] 'cloud' See Norwegian phonology
Nynorsk sjukehus [ˈʃʉːkeˈhʉːs] 'hospital'
Occitan Auvergnat maissant [meˈʃɔ̃] 'bad' See Occitan phonology
Gascon maishant [maˈʃan]
Limousin son [ʃũ] 'his'
Persian شاه [ʃɒːh] 'king' See Persian phonology
Polish Gmina Istebna siano [ˈʃän̪ɔ] 'hay' /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ merge into [ʃ] in these dialects. In standard Polish, /ʃ/ is commonly used to transcribe what actually is a laminal voiceless retroflex sibilant.
Lubawa dialect[10]
Malbork dialect[10]
Ostróda dialect[10]
Warmia dialect[10]
Portuguese European[11] caixa [ˈkajʃɐ] 'box' See Portuguese phonology
Brazilian choque [ˈʃɔki] '(one is) in shock'
Punjabi ਸ਼ੇਰ [ʃeːɾ] 'lion'
Romani Vlax deš [deʃ] 'ten'
Romanian șefi [ʃefʲ] 'bosses' See Romanian phonology
Sahaptin šíš [ʃiʃ] 'mush'
Scottish Gaelic seinn [ʃeiɲ] 'sing' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian шума / šuma [ʃûmä] 'forest' May be laminal retroflex instead, depending on the dialect. See Serbo-Croatian phonology.
Silesian Gmina Istebna[12] [example needed] These dialects merge /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ into [ʃ].
Slovene šóla [ʃola] 'school'
Somali shan [ʃan] 'five' See Somali phonology
Spanish Northern Mexico[13] echador [e̞ʃaˈðo̞r] 'boastful' Corresponds to [t͡ʃ] in other dialects. See Spanish phonology
Southern Andalusia
Swahili kushoto [kuʃoto] 'trees'
Swedish vars [vɑːʃ] 'whose' Allophone of [ʂ], mainly in northern dialects. See Swedish phonology
Tagalog siya [ʃa] 'he / she' See Tagalog phonology
Toda[14] [pɔʃ] 'language'
Tunica šíhkali [ˈʃihkali] 'stone'
Turkish güneş [ɟyˈne̞ʃ] 'sun' See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian шахи ['ʃaxɪ] 'chess' See Ukrainian phonology
Urdu شکریہ [ʃʊkˈriːaː] 'thank you' See Hindi-Urdu phonology
Uyghur شەھەر [ʃæhær] 'city'
Walloon texhou [tɛʃu] 'knit fabric'
Welsh Standard siarad [ˈʃɑːrad] 'speak' See Welsh phonology
Southern dialects mis [miːʃ] 'month'
West Frisian sjippe [ˈʃɪpǝ] 'soap'
Western Lombard Canzés fescia [feʃa] 'nuisance'
Yiddish וויסנשאַפֿטלעכע [vɪsn̩ʃaftləxə] 'scientific' See Yiddish phonology
Yorùbá i [ʃi] 'open'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[15] xana [ʃana] 'how?'
Zhuang cib [ʃǐp] 'ten'

In various languages, including English and French, it may have simultaneous lip rounding, i.e. [ʃʷ], although this is usually not transcribed.

Classical Latin did not have [ʃ], though it does occur in most of today's Latin–descended languages. For example, ch in French chanteur "singer" is pronounced /ʃ/. "chanteur" is descended from Latin cantare, where c was pronounced /k/. sc in Latin scientia "science" was pronounced /sk/, but has shifted to /ʃ/ in Italian scienza.

Similarly, Proto-Germanic had neither [ʃ] nor [ʂ], yet a good number of its descendants do. In most cases, this [ʃ] or [ʂ] descends from a Proto-Germanic /sk/. For instance, Proto-Germanic *skipą ("hollow object, water-borne vessel larger than a boat") was pronounced /ˈski.pɑ̃/. The English word "ship" /ʃɪp/ has been pronounced without the /sk/ the longest, the word being descended from Old English "scip" /ʃip/ which had also already had the [ʃ], though the Old English spelling etymologically indicated that the old /sk/ had once been present. This change took a good bit longer to catch on in other West Germanic dialects outside of Old English, but it eventually did do so. The twoth West Germanic language to undergo this sound shift was most definitely Old High German. In fact, it has been argued that Old High German's /sk/ was actually already /ɕk/, as (when alone) [s] had already shifted to [ɕ]. Furthermore, by Middle High German, that /ɕk/ had shifted to [ʃ]. After High German, the shift most likely then occurred in Low Saxon. After Low Saxon, Middle Dutch experienced the shift, though it stopped shifting once it reached /sx/, and has been frozen in that phonological state ever since. Then, most likely through influence from German and Low Saxon, North Frisian then experienced the shift. Then, unsurprisingly since it is a phonetically non-conservative language like German, Swedish quite swiftly experienced the shift, which rather than the logical outcomes aforelisted, instead resulted in the very unnatural [ɧ] phoneme that is notorious for not having developed in any other human language aside from Swedish (though it does occur in the Kölsch dialect of High German, but not as a replacement for the standard High German /ʃ/). Finally, the last to undergo the shift was Norwegian, which was originally a very conservative language, though it had stopped being one long ago. The result of Norwegian's shift was [ʃ].

The sound in Russian denoted by ш is commonly transcribed as a palato-alveolar fricative but is actually a laminal retroflex fricative.

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative[edit]

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative
IPA number 151 414 402A 429
X-SAMPA r\_-_0_r

The voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative is a consonantal sound. As the International Phonetic Alphabet does not have separate symbols for the post-alveolar consonants (the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that aren't palatalized), this sound is usually transcribed ɹ̠̊˔ (retracted constricted voiceless [ɹ]). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\_-_0_r.


  • 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 postalveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge.
  • 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.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English Irish[16] tree [tɹ̠̊˔iː] 'tree' Allophone of /r/ after an aspirated /t/. See English phonology
Received Pronunciation[17] crew [kɹ̠̊˔uː] 'crew' Partially devoiced;[18] it's an allophone of /r/ after aspirated consonants.[18] See English phonology

See also[edit]



  • Canepari, Luciano (1992), Il MªPi – Manuale di pronuncia italiana [Handbook of Italian Pronunciation] (in Italian), Bologna: Zanichelli, ISBN 88-08-24624-8 
  • Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988), Spanish in the Americas, Georgetown University Press, ISBN 978-0-87840-094-2 
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223 
  • Dąbrowska, Anna (2004), Język polski, Wrocław: wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, ISBN 83-7384-063-X 
  • Dubisz, Stanisław; Karaś, Halina; Kolis, Nijola (1995), Dialekty i gwary polskie, Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, ISBN 83-2140989-X 
  • Dum-Tragut, Jasmine (2009), Armenian: Modern Eastern Armenian, Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company 
  • Fougeron, Cecile; Smith, Caroline L (1993), "French", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 23 (2): 73–76, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874 
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1992), "Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 22 (2): 45–47, doi:10.1017/S002510030000459X 
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.), Blackwell 
  • Mangold, Max (2005), Das Aussprachewörterbuch, Duden, ISBN 978-3411040667 
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344 
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 239–245, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001768 
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117–121, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628 
  • Shosted, Ryan K.; Chikovani, Vakhtang (2006), "Standard Georgian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36 (2): 255–264, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002659 
  • Thelwall, Robin (1990), "Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 20 (2): 37–41, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004266