Palato-alveolar consonant

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Not to be confused with alveolo-palatal consonant.
Tongue shape

In phonetics, palato-alveolar (or palatoalveolar) consonants are postalveolar consonants, nearly always sibilants, that are weakly palatalized with a domed (bunched-up) tongue. They are common sounds cross-linguistically and occur in English words such as ship and chip.

The fricatives are transcribed ʃ (voiceless) and ʒ (voiced) in the International Phonetic Alphabet, while the corresponding affricates are (voiceless) and (voiced). (For the affricates, tied symbols t͡ʃ d͡ʒ or unitary Unicode symbols ʧ ʤ are sometimes used instead, especially in languages that make a distinction between an affricate and a sequence of stop + fricative.) Examples of words with these sounds in English are shin [ʃ], chin [tʃ], gin [dʒ] and vision [ʒ] (in the middle of the word).

Palato-alveolar consonants can be articulated either with the tip or blade of the tongue, and are correspondingly called apical or laminal,. Speakers of English use both variants, and it does not appear to significantly affect the sound of the consonants.[1]

Similarity to other sounds[edit]

These sounds are similar to the alveolo-palatal sibilants [ɕ] [ʑ] and to the retroflex sibilants [ʂ] [ʐ], all of which are postalveolar consonants. In palato-alveolars the front of the body of the tongue is domed, in that the front of the tongue moves partway towards the palate, giving the consonant a weakly palatalized sound. They differ from other postalveolars in the extent of palatalization, intermediate between the fully palatalized alveolo-palatals and the unpalatalized retroflexes.

It is generally only within sibilants that a palato-alveolar articulation is distinguished. In certain languages nasals or laterals may be said to be palato-alveolar,[citation needed] but it is unclear if such sounds can be consistently distinguished from alveolo-palatals and palatalized alveolars. Even in the case of sibilants, palato-alveolars are often described simply as "post-alveolars" or even as "palatals", since they do not contrast with these sounds in most languages.

Palato-alveolar consonants in the IPA[edit]

The two palato-alveolar fricatives with letters in the International Phonetic Alphabet, and their common affricate homologues, are:

IPA Description Example
Language Orthography IPA Meaning
Xsampa-S2.png Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative English shin [ʃɪn] shin
Xsampa-Z2.png Voiced palato-alveolar fricative English vision [ˈvɪʒən] vision
IPA voiceless postalveolar affricate.png Voiceless palato-alveolar affricate English chin [ɪn] chin
IPA voiced postalveolar affricate.png Voiced palato-alveolar affricate English gin [ɪn] gin

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8.