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I think this is a bit mis-named -- the fricative is not only dorso-palatal but also labial -- if the lips are not rounded the sound is virtually identical to [ɕ] or [x]. So I'd call it a voiceless dorso-palatal labio-velar (or just labial) fricative. Any Swedish-speaking linguists to help me? Steverapaport 01:53, 2 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Even though I don't speak Swedish, given the general picture I'm getting of the articulation of this consonant, I'd probably go with either "voiceless antevelar fricative" or "voiceless trans-oral fricative".  Denelson83  19:44, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
You might also prefer to transcribe this sound as [ʍʲ] and stay away from the ɧ symbol altogether. -- Denelson83 00:47, 30 November 2006 (UTC)


I found this article through the article on the Swedish language, where this sound is described as a rather specifically Swedish sound. After reading the article, I still haven't figured out what sound we're talking about, and I'm Swedish. A couple of examples would be great. Just a quick list of words where the sound occurs. Velar this and fricative that doesn't mean much unless you're fairly deep in the whole phonemolinguistic-quagmire. And most of us aren't. (talk) 16:59, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

The mysterious Swedish fricative[edit]

I found this to be a very interesting, so I am dumping the whole thing here.

This is User:Steverapaport's question & comments, Ladefoged's quote, & User:Ruhrjung's comments pasted from Wikipedia:Reference_desk#The_mysterious_Swedish_fricative_2. I edited the Ladefoged a little bit to remove extraneous stuff. - Ish ishwar 18:23, 2005 Jan 4 (UTC)

Hi, I may need a native Swedish speaker and linguist on this one.

I've just added a page for the swedish "sj" sound, which a previous contributor gave as [ɧ] (X-Sampa x\) but also named the "Voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative".

I have tried reading up on the system of naming the consonants by place of articulation and airflow, and as far as I can tell, this isn't a very good name for it. The consonant is articulated in two places: The palate (like the 'voiceless palatal fricative' X-Sampa C2) and the narrowed lips (like the Japanese "voiceless bilabial fricative" X-Sampa Pslash). Given that, isn't it more accurate to call it the "voiceless dorso-palato-bilabial fricative" or something?

Also, what's the correct Kirschenbaum for this consonant?

Many thanks, --Steverapaport 16:50, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I'm not a fan of ascii phonetic transcription nor an expert in Swedish phonetics & phonology, but I do have a book that has a little on this sound. I have enclosed all sounds in brackets instead of using boldface like the book. Here we go:
.... Some dialects of Swedish have a fricative that has been said to have two or even three articulatory constrictions (Abercrombie 1967). We do not, however, think it is correct for more than one of these constrictions to be considered a fricative articulation. There is good data available on the Swedish sibilant fricatives (Lindblad 1980) allowing us to consider these sounds in detail.
Swedish has four phonologically distinct fricative gestures.... [ɕ], [ɧ]; are more difficult to describe. The basic descriptive problem is one of geographical, social, and stylistic variation....
The fourth Swedish fricative, usually symbolized by <ɧ>, is the most interesting. Lindblad describes two common variants of Swedish [ɧ]. The first, for which he uses a different symbol, he calls a highly rounded, labiodental, velar or velarized fricative.... Lindblad suggests that the source of frication is between the lower lip and the upper teeth, and it certainly appears to be so from his x-ray. He also demonstrates that the upper lip is considerably protruded in comparison with its position with that in the gesture of [i]. In addition to these anterior gestures, Lindblad notes that the "tongue body is raised and retracted towards the velum to form a fairly narrow constriction. (The presence of this constriction is constant, but not its width or location, which vary considerably.)" The posterior constriction in this variety of [ɧ] is not great enough to be itself a source of turbulence, so that, although this sound may have three notable constrictions, one in the velar region, one labiodental, and a lesser one between the two lips, only the labiodental constriction is a source of friction.
The second common variant of Swedish [ɧ] described by Lindblad as a "dorsovelar voiceless fricative" pronounced with the jaw more open and without the lip protrusion that occurs in the other variety. Lindblad suggests that the difference between this sound and the more usual velar fricative [x] is that the latter "is formed with low frequency irregular vibrations in the saliva at the constriction" (Lindblad 1980, our translation). We infer from his descriptions and diagrams that this variant of [ɧ] has less frication, and may be slightly further forward than the velar fricative [x] commonly found in other languages. Lindblad claims that between the extreme positions of the labiodental [ɧ] and the more velar [ɧ], "there are a number of intermediate types with various jaw and lip positions, including some with both anterior and posterior sound sources.".... we doubt that it is possible to produce turbulence at two points in mouth simultaneouly for ordinary linguistic purposes.
(Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 171-172)
Lindblad's demonstrations of his own pronuciations of some of the fricatives that occur in different Swedish dialects are shown in figure 5.31. He notes that these sounds may be characterized to a great extent by the frequency of the lower edge of the band of fricative noise. For the three sibilants [s], [ʂ], [ ʃ ] on the left of the figure, this frequency gradually descends. (It is somewhat surprising that it should be lower in [ ʃ ], than in [ʂ].) In the palatalized post-alveolar sibilant [ɕ] in the lower left of the figure there is a less sharp lower frequency cut off, as there is in the palatal fricative [ç] opposite it on the lower right side; [ɕ] differs from [ç] by having a higher mean spectral energy. The rounded fricatives in the upper right part of the figure have a strong low frequency peak. Both [ ʃʷ] and [ɧ] also have a low frequency peak, as well as a considerable amount of energy in the region just above 4 kHz.
(Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 173-174)
The...matter to be considered concerns the possibility of multiply-articulated fricatives. It is clear that generation of audible friction at two different locations in the oral cavity at the same time is very difficult.... a fricative requires a more precise adjustment of the articulators than a stop or an approximant. The size of the inter-articulator aperture and the velocity of the airflow must be within critical limits for friction to be generated. To achieve two of these critical adjustments at the same time, especially when the flow requirements might be different for different places, is obviously problematical. From the auditory point of view, even if two sources of friction exist, the one further forward in the mouth is very likely to mask the acoustic effect of the more rearward one. Doubly-articulated fricatives would therefore seem to be linguistically undesirable segments; they are hard to produce and poorly distinctive. Nonetheless, in a small number of languages it has been claimed that such segments do occur. We have examined some of these cases and found them to be instances of either fricative segments with a secondary articulation....
The most well-known case is the Swedish segment that has been described as a doubly-articulated voiceless palato-alveoar-velar fricative, i.e., [ ʃ͡x]. The IPA even goes so far as to provide a separate symbol for this sound on its chart, namely <ɧ>. The sound in question is one variant of the pronunciation of the phonological element [ ʃ ], which is highly variable in Swedish dialects, receiving pronunciations ranging from a palatalized bilabial sound to a velarized palato-alveolar one to a fully velar one. As we is not clear that any of the variants is actually a doubly-articulated fricative.
(Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996: 329-330)
  • Abercrombie, David. (1967). Elements of general phonetics. Chicago: Aldine.
  • Ladefoged, Peter; & Maddieson, Ian. (1996). The sounds of the world's languages. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Lindblad, Per. (1980). Svenskans sje- och tje-ljud i ett Allmänfonetisk Perspektiv. Travaux de l'Institut de Linguistique de Lund 16. Lund: C. W. K. Gleerup.
Maybe too informative, but please enjoy. Cheers! - Ish ishwar 21:09, 2005 Jan 3 (UTC)
Beautiful, Ish! Thanks! Just what I needed. I understand a few things from this:
1. That there are several different ways to pronounce this sound, so it's not worth my trying too hard to pin it down.
2. That the way I pronounce it and hear it pronounced (in Stockholm) would fall under the "palatalized bilabial sound".
3. That my contention of the doubly-articulated fricative was inaccurate -- what I meant was "either fricative segments with a secondary articulation, or instances of a sequence of two fricatives that has been interpreted as a single segment for phonological reasons." To tell the truth I could pronounce "sj" just fine in either of those two ways.
4. And finally that this is an even more mysterious subject than I'd thought, and I'm unlikely to get it right on the first try, or even on the first Masters' thesis.... :-)
By the way, just saying "phew" after all that turns out to be a pretty good approximation of [ɧ], and I'll write that too.
Many thanks and cheers,
\ Steverapaport 22:19, 3 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I was about to write on this before I discovered that Ish Ishwar had already done so. There was a line confusing me, which I've now removed. I hope this doesn't disturb anyone. Unfortunately, there are lots of signs that this computer present as empty squares. I understand that to be IPA-characters, but I can not comment on them at the moment.
After this long quote, I may instead make a few more functional and anectdotical comments:
This subject touches on one of the major problems for students of Swedish, i.e. the absense of one single norm for pronounciation. In the case of English, it's easier to understand, with the huge distances and so on. For Swedish, the matter is further complicated by most Swedes being unaware or denying the great variances between "high-status varieties" of Swedish as spoken in Lund, Uppsala, Helsinki, Gothenburg or Umeå - this is particularly disturbing as it includes teachers of the language and writers of text books on Swedish, and even textbooks on phonetics written in Swedish: People know of lexical differences, but do typically believe that their own pronounciation is "the most common" and that other pronounciations can be categorized as more or less distinct "dialects". Australians, Indians, British and Americans do at least recognize that they pronounce differently - the Swedes do not, and put up a blank face when asked about it.
I'm not knowing enough to make a comprehensive list of such differences, but
  • the assimilation of 'rs', 'rd', 'rt' and 'rl is surely one
    • my personal experience is that foreigners better do not, unless one is firmly located within the area where people do so. They who assimilate 'r' understand you if you don't, but they who don't assimilate may get problems to understand you if you have also other marks of a foreign accent.
  • the extremely confusing distribution of what the Swedes call "sje-sounds" and "tje-sounds". There is a whole series of sounds, I believe, and the lengthy quote above is probably not totally comprehensive.
    • Chief problem is that the way some people realize the tje-phonem (kära, tjära, kjortel) to my ears sounds exactly as how others pronounce the sje-phonem (skära, skjorta, sked). To make it just a little bit more complicated: I believe some Swedish speakers furthermore make a difference between kära and tjära — but most do probably not.
    • The solution for the student of Swedish can be to ignore this issue and strive to use one sound for both of these phonems, which results in a situation like when some foreigners neglect the difference between "living" and "leaving" in English.
    • Or one could strive to use the most distant realizations in order to enhance the chances to get understood, which also will sound wrong to a native ear, but relatively comprehensible.
In the latter case, one need to use X-SAMPA /S/ or something similar for kära and the bi-labial X-SAMPA /p\/ sound in words as skära, skjorta, sked, sjuksköterska. When I learned that sound, we were a group of native Germans who used half a day trying to whistle a tune and then immediately continue humming on different vowels. After some exercise, we could all say sked, skära, sjuk, sköterska but to put that sound in the midsth of a word, as in magsjuk or sjuksköterska turned out to be even more demanding...
--Ruhrjung 15:12, 2005 Jan 4 (UTC)
P.S. Readers of Swedish can see this confusion illustrated at a Swedish-language cousin to Wikipedia: --Ruhrjung 15:26, 2005 Jan 4 (UTC)
Thanks to all, I've fixed the page to my satisfaction now. Edit away! Steverapaport 16:30, 4 Jan 2005 (UTC)
I think I can explain the difficulties your're having to some extent, Steve. The pronunciation of the "sj"-sound is highly dependant on the vowel it precedes. The words "sked", "sjuda" and "skida" are labial, while "sjal" and "jour" are velar. The sounds are quite hard to distinguish, though, and pretty much only phonologists and devoted amateurs like us are really aware of it.
As for the alleged difference between "kära" and "tjära", I think the difference you hear is entirely a perceived one. They might be in Finland-Swedish, but that's just a guess. And the difference between the "sj" and "tj" might be subtle, but the dialects that do differentiate do so quite consistently. A native Swede will always hear the difference between "tjära" and "skära" no matter the dialect. At least in the dialects I'm aware of.
My recommendation to a student of Swedish that has a hard time with [ɧ] is to skip it altogether and just pronounce everything [ʂ]. It will not really make any difference except that the listener might realize that you're (*gasp*) a foreignter. ;-) Mutual understanding is not particularly dependant on that one set of allophones. karmosin 18:58, Mar 12, 2005 (UTC)
The way I pronounce [ɧ] (mainstream Stockholm dialect) for the words "sjal" and "jour", is like a less fricative [x] moved a bit forward in the mouth. One way to produce it might be to take a German "Bach", close the jaws a bit, decreasing frication, and then say "sjal". As for the lips, I think they have more to do with the pronunciation of the vowel "a": with some training, I can do it without lip movements. Then the [ɧ] as in "sked", "sjuda" and "skida" could be pronounced either starting as in "sjal" and let the frication point slide a bit forward before entering the vowel, or one can start with this more forward frication point directly. So there is only one frication point in use at any given point in time, though it may slide a bit, or differ, perhaps as an adjustment to the vowel of the syllable it belongs to. And I also think there is absolutely no difference in the sounds of "kära" and "tjära" -- I think of them as being the same, in any case. Once upon the time, these consonants were pronounced separately. So in the case of a word like "fors", one can pronounce it as [rs] and it will then sound a bit formal or over-articulated (like in a poem), or oldish. Take for example "forsen forsade vilt"; then I think one might put [rs] on "forsen" for emphasis (not in daily speak), but it would be a bit too much to have also on "forsade". --Haberg (talk) 19:38, 9 January 2009 (UTC)

Pronunciation request[edit]

Can somebody put a pronunciation sound of this one of Wikimedia Commons? I would be very thankful. Gerritholl 11:36, 21 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I've recorded two files of comparisons of [ɧ]. In this recording I pronounce the first one labial and the second one velar. I have a pretty hard time telling them apart myself.
I've also made this recording of me pronouncing skjuta, "shoot" in my best attempt to imitate five variants of Swedish; Standard Swedish, Småland dialect, Norrland dialect, Finland-Swedish and Rinkeby-Swedish respectively.
Standard and southern Swedish dialects are similar enough, but the northern and Finnish dialects make it into a [ʂ], while the Rinkeby-sj is a [x] as far as I can tell. I think you guys are better judges of that than I am. - karmosin 15:09, Mar 9, 2005 (UTC)
I guess it is because you are swedish. I would have no problem to tell your labial and velar versions apart. I would probably think they are two distinct phonemes. They sound very different. On your second recording, only Norrland and Finnish versions sound similar. Other versions are clearly different from each other.-- (talk) 21:08, 15 December 2007 (UTC)
Based on its acoustic properties one from Standard dialect sounds almost like prototypical retroflex fricative where tongue tip is quite notably curled back. On the other hand a very similar sound can be produced in a very different way, where tongue is more like domed than retroflexed. Anyhow there is quite large cavity in front part of the mouth, since tongue tip is retracted and either goes up or down. So how exactly that Standard Swedish sound is articulated? --Drundia (talk) 02:17, 19 September 2009 (UTC)

There's a well-known Swedish tongue-twister based on this sound. I could put up a recording if anyone is interested. It goes as follows:
Sju sjösjuka sjömän på det sjunkande skeppet Shanghai skötes av sju sköna sjuksystrar, på det sjunkande skeppet Shanghai.
Seven seasick sailors on the sinking ship Shangai were taken care of by seven fair nurses, on the sinking ship Shanghai.
--Ulfalizer 13:31, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
And when skötes is spelled that way, with only one t, it actually means are taken care of in stead of were.... :-) Fomalhaut76 (talk) 20:13, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

A Swedish bi-labial fricative?[edit]

I can find no evidence of any discussion or sources that can confirm that the fricative that this article describes is pronounced [ɸ] in any Swedish dialect. I noticed that it was added by Johan Magnus, but without any explanation.

If anyone disagrees, please cite a source for this claim. To me it appears to simply be a confusion stemming from the fact that /ɧ/ can be pronounced labially (but not bilabially) before certain vowels. karmosin 18:12, Mar 13, 2005 (UTC)

Well, we have two lips, don't we?
(BTW: I hope we don't define Swedish spoken south of Kolmården-Tiveden as anything else than Swedish.) --Johan Magnus 09:27, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I suggested a very simple experiment to prove my point about the bilabial issue over at talk:Swedish language:
"Pull down your lower lip towards your chin and hold it down while pronouncing the words skiva and skiffer. The /ɧ/s and all other sounds will be fully recognizable, but just try sounding the bilabial /v/ or /f/ properly without the use of both lips."
No, only tje-like sje-sounds will be recognizable. Although if there is an uvular component in the sje-sound, then that will survive the lip-pulling and raise above obscurity. --Johan Magnus 15:36, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Unfortunetely I fouled up the train of thought there, because it's actually labio-dental, but it still works because you use your lower lip to make the sound. You can make the same attempt for the truly bilabial Japanese [ɸ]. It can't be pronounced without the use of both lips.
And you can make all the claims you want about Scanian or southern Swedish accents being radically different - I'm perfectly aware of what they sound like. If you can't cite any sources for it, I'll have to assume that you've simply misinterpreted the phonology. karmosin 11:43, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC)
as I already had mentioned in the article: labiodental (in this case meaning it is articulated with the lower teeth against the upper lip) is valid, but my Swedish wife can't think of any accents where a proper japanese [ɸ] sounds like "sj" at all. You need a source of turbulence inside the mouth to produce the [ɧ]. (Some believe two sources, others say that's impossible). But if you read the article from Ladefoged above, there are plenty of other pronunciations that are valid in Sweden, no need to introduce a Japanese fricative too, I think. Anyway don't listen to me, I'm not a native speaker. Steve Rapaport 19:03, 14 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I talked to my mother about it today, and it's kinda interesting, because she belongs to an older generation and hasn't grown up in Stockholm. She doesn't really speak dialect, and neither does she have any signs of a Stockholm accent, like I do. She pronounces the sounds with almost clenched teeth and quite frontal, making it sound a lot more like the retroflex [ʂ]. The way I pronounce it is probably more typical of middle to southern Swedish dialects and of a younger generation. Our "sj"s are probably still perceived as "sloppier". I think there is still the idea that the sound i somehow a tad unrefined and not quite suited for high-prestige speaking, even though it is by far the most commonly used.
I don't really have anything to support this, except for somekind of sociolinguistic intuition. Can anyone confirm this? karmosin 21:28, Mar 14, 2005 (UTC)
I don't speak Japanese, and have never been so far away, why references to Japanese get lost on me.
There is a short example referred to at Talk:Swedish language,
Sociolinguistically, according to reports I've seen, the patterns for sje-sound realization are complicated even in the Mälardal-variety of rikssvenska. But people do indeed know very well how they perceive the different allophones as more elevated or more relaxed. The problem is, the community of Swedish speakers do not constitute one speech community with a common perception of this, but at least three. So do, for instance, Swedish-as-a-second-language speakers adjust to different high-status varieties if they are (re-)socialized into academia in (Gothenburg–)Lund(–Malmö) than if they go to StockholmUppsala.
I there also mention a set of other possible phonetic notions for the phew-sound:
  • [ Rounded labiodental fricative.PNG ]
  • [ fʷ ]
  • [ ʍ ]
  • [ w̥ ]
To make the sound in question,
  1. start with an /f/
  2. continue to exhale while the lower jaw is slowly adjusted forward
  3. the contact point between lower lip and the upper teeth is moved further and further downward/inward on the lip
  4. when the contact between lip and teeth is lost, air is flowing through a narrow gap between your lips
  5. by now you may exhale with more force, and continue with the following vowel
Congratulations! You have by now probably produced a south-Scandinavian sje-sound.
--Johan Magnus 15:54, 16 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Would that example be valid for any vowel context, or does it vary? To me it's very similar to how I pronounce it before a [ʉː].
The Japanese style [ɸ] is quite clearly pronounced at voiceless bilabial fricative. It sounds more like a weak [f] than anything resembling a [ɧ], and is the reason why I'm not too keen on comparisons, no matter how labial [ɧ] can get.
Also, I think we're overlooking the fact that /ɧ/ varies a lot depending on which vowel it precedes. The middle Swedish articulation can be just as labial if we're talking about words like sked, skida or sjuda while being quite velar in words like sjal, or chans, and I'm pretty sure that this is the case in southern and western Standard Swedish as well. Peter Isotalo 10:15, Mar 17, 2005 (UTC)
South of GothenburgJönköpingVästervik it varies only if you are wilfully or unintentionally copying a Stockholm-pattern. To my ear, it gives an effeminate impression if someone (who otherways demonstrate Götaland characteristics) varies between a "clean" sje-sound and a tje-like sound, ...somewhat similar to the impression of a gay lisp.
In other words. If it varies (and that's more or less selfevident that some degree of assimilation with following vowel takes place) in careful (high-status) pronounciation, this variation is too small to get noticed. Noticed, it first gets when a coronal quality is added, which for instance marks the accents of some immigrants.
The chief difference is: The tongue is not engaged. The tongue doesn't contribute to the occlusion of the air flow. The description at voiceless bilabial fricative fits with how I perceive the production of the sound, but it is stronger than /f/ and this can be attributed to two factors: 1/ the force by which air is exhaled, 2/ the amplifying effect of rounded lips. — or it may be so that the primary occlusion is labio-dental and the lips work "only" to amplify the sound. However, Karmosin's experiment above gives me the impression that the lips play a role similar to when whistling.
--Johan Magnus 15:36, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)

I still don't understand how the "tj"-sound is relevant to this discussion. It is not an allophone of /ɧ/ and I have never heard of any dialect or variant of Swedish where that is the case. (I assume that you by "tje-sound" mean [ç].)

No, any sje-sound with an audible coronal quality, i.e. with the tongue occluding the airflow against the roof of the mouth, is in this meaning a tje-like sound, since for non-linguists who don't have it in their own use it is hard or impossible to distinguish from the tje-sounds. --Johan Magnus 17:43, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)

What is a "clean sje-sound"? You're being too vague in your descriptions of these sounds. Please either refer to proper sources or actual sound files. We have plenty of the latter readily available at wikipedia.

A clean sje-sound is one that is not tje-like, i.e. palatized or velarized as the typical Svealand sje-sounds. --Johan Magnus 17:43, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)

And I'm going to have to put my foot down about this whole [ɸ]-issue.

I think you did so on March 13. --Johan Magnus 17:43, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)

There is a recording of this at voiceless bilabial fricative which should make it perfectly clear to any speaker of Swedish that this is not one of the possible variations. The only description we have of bilabiality is a very vague one from Ladefoged and Maddiesson that is refering to Lindblad's studies and talks of palatalization. That implies that the sound is produced somewhat differently than the Japanese-style fricative. We need more detailed sources if we're to mention this in the article. Peter Isotalo 16:10, Mar 17, 2005 (UTC)

You have the "hemskjutsad" example above, and half a dozen given by Tuomas. What about them? If a sound is produced "like an English /f/ pronounced with only the lips" what can it be, else than an unvoiced bilabial fricative? An approximant?
Sounds don't have to be identical between languages to receive the same transcription. Compare the German and British / ʃ /. One is clearly more labialized than the other, but we are content to use the same symbol anyway.
--Johan Magnus 17:43, 17 Mar 2005 (UTC)
Tuomas' examples are certainly not bilabial, and do not at all sound like the japanese fricative. They seem more or less identical to the soundfiles I recorded. The articulation is not just done with the lips. If it was, it would have the [f]-like quality of the [ɸ] and would most likely be perceived as a badly pronounced "f" by any native speaker of Swedish.
And this sound is clearly not just a matter of slight variation in tounge position. It's simply not pronounced bilabially and I have yet to see a source that actually claims that. Where does "like an English /f/ pronounced with only the lips" come from anyway? Peter Isotalo 11:13, Mar 18, 2005 (UTC)

summary note[edit]

Hi everyone. I think that a summary is useful at this point, so I am going to summarize and symbolize some of the descriptions in the Ladefoged & Maddieson quote that I provided earlier and some of the others. The symbol [ɧ] does not seem to be a particularly helpful symbol so I wont be using it at all.

  1. [ʃx]. The traditional description, double-articulation between the palato-alveolar & velar fricatives. Ladefoged et al. disagree with this.
  2. [fˠʷ]. Lindblad's 1st variant described in Ladefoged et al. (p. 171-172): rounded velarized labiodental.
  3. [fxʷ]. A variation of Lindblad's 1st variant: rounded labiodental-velar (double-articulation). Ladefoged et al. say that the velar obstruction does not produce frication. So perhaps a better symbolization is [fx̞ʷ], i.e. a rounded voiceless labiodental-fricative-velar-approximant. Ladefoged et al. do not agree with this one because they do not like the idea of double articulations.
  4. [x̟  ̞] or [ç̠  ̞]. Lindblad's 2nd variant: slightly fricated fronted velar fricative or slightly fricated backed palatal fricative. The passive articulator is the area between the palatal & velar regions.
  5. A number variants that have differing amounts of obstruction in the front and back of the mouth.

In Ladefoged et al. p. 329-330, a reference is made to the range of different sounds: from a [ɸʲ] to a [ʃ̞ʷ] to a [x]. I believe that they are not being precise here because their main concern is whether these sounds should be described as having a double-articulation. Since they are not being precise I think that we can consider this statement to be equivalent to (5) above.

I note that Ladefoged et al. (1996) do have x-ray pictures and the like in their book. I encourage those interested to take a look at these. — ishwar (SPEAK) 17:31, 2005 Mar 18 (UTC)

New data:[edit]

I am going to quote from Catford's (1977: 191) very nice book on phonetics which has a brief mention of this sound:

"Apico-postalveolarized articulation possibly occurs in the south Swedish (Skåne) variant of [ʃ], which appears to be apico-postalveolarized velar fricative [xʃ]—unless the articulation is actually coordinate."

Another thing I happened to find is in Caisse (1992) where a reference is made to personal communication from Jan-Olof Svantesson:

"Jan-Olof Svantesson (personal communication, 1991) has provided me with another example...from his native dialect of Swedish, Halland, spoken in Halmstad in southern Sweden...." (Caisse 1992: 327)
"/ɧ/ is a palato-alveolar with simultaneous velar and labial components." (Caisse 1992: 328, footnote #14)

I will symbolize Caisse's sound as [ʃˠʷ].


  • Catford, J. C. (1977). Fundamental problems in phonetics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Kaisse, Ellen M. (1992). Can [consonantal] spread?. Language, 68 (2), 313-332.

ishwar (SPEAK) 17:30, 2005 Mar 18 (UTC)


Has anyone checked out Lindblad (1980)? I think it would be interesting to see what is discussed there. Peace. — ishwar (SPEAK) 17:29, 2005 Mar 18 (UTC)

Yes. See: Talk:Swedish phonology#tje-sje dichotomy. He made X-ray filming of eight individuals. Six from Svealand occluding with the dorsum of the tongue against the velum, and two from Götaland occluding frontally by the upper teeth and the lower lip (he argues). The number of individuals is maybe not too impressive, but he is quoted in later works without opposition, so I guess his conclusions are generally accepted.
See also: Talk:Swedish language#Allophone
But I play with the idea to visit/phone him [1] and ask what his peers think about this issue now. I'm somewhat irked by User:Karmosin's proposal that the subject should be "original research", and I wonder how the work was perceived.
I have seven pages notes (sparsely written in Swedish) with quotes from his dissertation, but I don't really know if it would be worth the effort to translate those notes to English.
--Johan Magnus 07:57, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)
That was over at Talk:Swedish phonology, Johan. Over there we're definetly getting spaced out with quite irrelevant talk of foreigners confusing sounds, bunching "sj" and "tj"-sounds into the same argumentation and making things a lot more complicated than they should be. The ambiguity of this sound is best discussed and described in greater detail here, not at Swedish phonology.
The remark about original research is because you have a tendency to mix proper citations from proper scholars with the opinions of laymen into the discussion. You're most likely right about a lot things, but quoting the personal opinions of a student of computational linguistics and a professor of molecular biology on such a complicated issue doesn't add to the credibility of your findings. Stick to sources like Lindblad and Ladefoged if you want your argumentation to seem solid. Peter Isotalo 11:34, Mar 19, 2005 (UTC)
Quoting them clearly indicates a confusion, either with regard to terminology, or with regard to the existence of a non-coronal and non-dorsal fricative used exclusively for sje-sounds (i.e. not for the r+s assimilation and not for recent loanwords where [ ʃ ] is preferred). I leave the issue of in which Wikipedia articles labial fricatives ought to be covered to more intelligent brains. --Johan Magnus 17:08, 19 Mar 2005 (UTC)

another quote about this reported sound in Avatime[edit]

from Maddieson (1995:76):

"Before discussing the Avatime facts, the production of the Swedish fricative transcribed “[ɧ]” will be briefly reviewed. This has sometimes been described as having a labio-dental + velar double articulation, which would be a counterexample to Ladefoged and Maddieson. Lindblad (1980) describes several variants of the phoneme of which this is one realization, but the sagittal tracing that he shows of the particular variant that has been described as doubly-articulated shows only one constriction narrow enough to cause frication. There is some narrowing in the velar region, as illustrated in Figure 8, but it is not comparable to a velar fricative articulation".

Maddieson says that these sounds in Avatime were reported to be double articulations and symbolized as /x͡ɸ/ and /ɣ͡β/ in Ford (1988). (Avatime, also called Si-ya(-se), is from the Central Togo group of the Niger-Congo family, spoken in Ghana.)

  • Ford, Kevin C. (1988). Structural features of the Central-Togo languages. In M. E. Kropp Dakubu (Ed.), The languages of Ghana. London: Kegan Paul International.
  • Maddieson, Ian. (1995). Collapsing vowel harmony and doubly-articulated fricatives: Two myths about the phonology of Avatime. In I. Maddieson (Ed.), UCLA working papers in phonetics: Fieldwork studies of targeted languages III (No. 91, pp. 67-84). Los Angeles: The UCLA Phonetics Laboratory Group.

peace – ishwar  (speak) 16:04, 2005 July 25 (UTC)

BTW, he concluded that Ford's alleged [x͡ɸ, ɣ͡β] in Avatime were actually labialized velars, [xʷ, ɣʷ]. kwami 18:20, 2005 July 25 (UTC)


dorso-palatal does not mean palatal-velar. the prefix dorso- indicates which portion of the tongue. so, palatal is short for dorso-palatal; velar is short for dorso-velar. the articulation of this sound is supposed to be both palatal and velar, i.e. palatal-velar ( = dorso-palatal-velar or dorso-palato-velar, this last one could be construed as something a bit different). – ishwar  (speak) 21:50, 2005 August 3 (UTC)

I now think "palatal-velar fricative" is a much better name for this consonant than I thought. Also, thank you for clarifying what "dorso-" meant. :-)  Denelson83  22:25, 3 August 2005 (UTC)
sure, thanks for simplification. peace – ishwar  (speak) 22:34, 2005 August 3 (UTC)

state of article[edit]

this article is not so much about a palatal-velar sound as it is about the Swedish sound. this is weird & inconsistent with other articles about sounds. for example, if a sound is labio-dental, then it is not palatal-velar. although a labiodental sound of some Swedish speakers may correspond to a velar sound or a palatal-velar sound, this is a detail of language specific phonology-phonetics. but, this is not evident from just reading the article. so, i think it needs some editing. peace – ishwar  (speak) 21:56, 2005 August 3 (UTC)

Presence in some varieties of British English?[edit]

Although I am not a phonetician and may well be misinterpreting one or other of the sounds, I am a native speaker of British English and have also learned Swedish and to me the Swedish sj- sound sounds identical to the way in which more conservative speakers of Southern British English used to pronounce -wh- in -which- -wheel- etc. There are probably not many speakers still alive with this pronunciation although certainly people in their sixties and seventies had it in the late 1980s. Richard Hudson, Munich

It sounds like that to me too, but it's not. See Voiceless labiovelar approximant#In English. jnestorius(talk) 04:32, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

The sound in BrE for "wh" is pronounced [hw] roughly, whereas I'm pretty sure the Swedish sound is more like [xw]. But they are very similar, only the Swedish one has more friction going on. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:34, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

A combination of [h] + [w] + [j] ("hwy-", "why-" with consonantal "y" as in year) is a good approximation, though, I think. Or Welsh "chw" + consonantal "i". --Florian Blaschke (talk) 04:18, 16 October 2015 (UTC)


People using their lips in pronouncing this sound must be very few, don't they/you, fellow Swedes. I think the voiceless dorso-palatal fricative (without any additional components) is the most common up to Dalarna and north thereof most people use a sound similar to the sh-sound of English or somewhat more retroflex. In the very south [x] might sometimes used instead of the dorso-palatal. If you are Swedish and use a labialized sj-sound where in the country do you live? 10:48, 23 June 2006 (UTC) (Native speaker of Swedish, grown up in Falun but frequently living in Linköping, 50 university points i linguistics, so far)

Put this in the Doubly articulated consonant category?[edit]

Though it appears to be unclear exactly how this consonant is pronounced, would it be okay to put this article in Category:Doubly articulated consonant? Mo-Al 04:12, 16 January 2007 (UTC)


I removed the dentolabial claim, as it was unreferenced, and the few comments alluding to it on this Talk page were inconsistent. Please restore if it can be justified. kwami (talk) 12:47, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

Also removed this claim, which was unsourced:

    • palatal and velar, meaning it is articulated simultaneously with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) approximating the velum and the hard palate, and usually described as rounded, with protruding lips. However, even if doubly articulated fricatives are possible, two articulations in the dorsal region are not, for double articulation requires two independent articulators.[1]

sound sample[edit]

The sound sample is really bad. I am swedish and have been so for all of my 33 years on this earth, and I would never ever have guessed that to be a sje-sound —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ason (talkcontribs) 20:51, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Common spellings[edit]

"sje-sound, based on one of the more common spellings" I don't know any Swedish words spelled with "SJE", I think that would be a more Dutch or Norwegian way of spelling!? (talk) 20:23, 17 March 2009 (UTC)

Sju, sjuda, sjuk, sjunka, sjö. I think most of those are derived from diphtongs beginning with i, though. The evolution being roughly si - sj (sy) - sje-sound, if that's clear. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 12:19, 18 October 2010 (UTC)


I've been bold and moved this. I don't think the name of the article should endorse any of the competing phonetic analyses. And the common name in Swedish is probably the common name in English, in as much as more anglophones study Swedish for instrumental reasons of acquiring fluency, and fewer study it as a linguistic object. I don't know whether the Swedish gloss should be "sje-ljud" or "sje-ljudet". jnestorius(talk) 20:40, 27 April 2010 (UTC)

The official IPA chart refers to this sound as a simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]. What do we make of that? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 22:59, 27 April 2010 (UTC)
That's already mentioned in the article. Are you suggesting it as a title for the page? jnestorius(talk) 00:36, 28 April 2010 (UTC)
It seems to me that the organization that put together the alphabet would be enough of an authority on the matter that our naming of it would follow suit. Or is it really supposed to be a whatever-the-sound-in-Swedish-is-we-think-it's-palatovelar. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 03:32, 28 April 2010 (UTC)
I accept that, for most IPA symbols, there is an article about the corresponding ideal sound; that article is language-neutral to begin with and later on lists languages which have sounds approximating to that ideal, typically to the extent of using the corresponding IPA symbol in some relatively broad transcription convention. I don't think this article was ever of that format; it was always about whatever-the-sound-in-Swedish-is. The change of name reflects that. jnestorius(talk) 08:19, 28 April 2010 (UTC)
So then we're prompted by the article content into converting it from an IPA symbol/sound to a topic relevant to Swedish linguistics. Wouldn't that mean that ɧ should probably not redirect to here, that the table at the top of the article should be removed, the consonants template at the bottom be removed? We may also want to create a more language-neutral article that ɧ can redirect to. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 21:55, 28 April 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Aeusoes. "Sje-sound" sounds unscientific, and is also unclear to English-speakers. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 12:17, 18 October 2010 (UTC)
That makes sense provided "simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]" has some objective existence outside the IPA chart. Obviously it's a possible articulation, but I'm not sure whether it's attested in any language other than Swedish. The use of [ɧ] for Kölsch, per the article, is inspired by Swedish rather than by analysis as any form of simultaneous articulation, [ʃ], [x], or otherwise. I don't know whether [ɧ] is used by phoneticians in other contexts. I have no knowledge of this beyond the article, but the following speculation seems plausble:
The IPA adds a symbol (in what year?) specifically to represent the elusive Swedish phoneme. The description "simultaneous [ʃ] and [x]" is chosen (perhaps provisionally or with reservations or misgiving) because something like "that peculiar Swedish fricative" would not be language-neutral. Subsequent IPA revisions have not altered this (has it ever been discussed or debated?) not because those who dispute its accuracy vis-a-vis Swedish are a small minority in the face of a large consensus, but rather because there is no consensus for any one specific alternative. Nevertheless, all those variant descriptions of the Swedish phoneme in question use the [ɧ] symbol, thus making it a cover for differerent language-neutral ideal phones.
If this story is true, I don't see a need for a separate article about an abstract phone where the number of languages in which it occurs is either zero or one. Although conceptually separate, it doesn't merit a separate article; but, being part of this article, the tables &c that go with IPA symbols should remain.
OTOH, my little story may be rubbish; in which case the current article would greatly benefit from evidence that it is. jnestorius(talk) 10:12, 29 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure of the veracity of your story, either. If it is true, I still don't see a reason to have either table present in this article. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 19:49, 29 April 2010 (UTC)
As long as ɧ redirects here, then the tables that accompany articles about IPA symbols are appropriate here. As to whether ɧ ought to redirect here: I don't see the point of splitting this article into two articles; there is too much overlap and it's not very long as it is. How would you envisage the division of material in such a split? Which of other redirects should point to which of the two refactored articles? jnestorius(talk) 21:11, 29 April 2010 (UTC)
The only reason we would split this article into two would be if the sound listed in the IPA isn't a whatever-the-sound-in-Swedish-is thing. I doubt this is the case and I think we can pretty much operate as you have been doing until we find evidence that contradicts your narrative. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 23:09, 29 April 2010 (UTC)

English approximation[edit]

So an acceptable sound for an English speaker to use is 'sh', is that correct? Varlaam (talk) 21:43, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes, certainly. Especially considering that according to Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative#Features, this sound is often pronounced with simultaneous lip-rounding in English – and apparently in French too; I can't really vouch for either, but in German this is definitely the case. However, you need to take care to differentiate this one from the other similar fricatives, such as the kj/tj and rs sounds. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:56, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
By the way, according to Swedish phonology#Fricatives, the realisation [ʃ] occurs in Finland-Swedish, so if you can get rid of your English accent otherwise, you might be taken for a Finland-Swede.
Also, this article now already points out in the lede that [ʃ] is the closest sound in English. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 23:05, 14 November 2011 (UTC)
The Finland-Swedish pronunciation, or the similar [ʂ] is used in all native dialects of northern Sweden and even in places of central Sweden, and everyone will recognise it as a native pronunciation. Skomakar'n (talk) 15:01, 30 November 2011 (UTC)
By using [ʃ], I believe it could lead to confusion with Swedish [ɕ], which is considered a distinct sound. I believe I use [ʂ] (the rs-sound) for both the [ɧ] sound and rs combination, myself, and I'm speaking a sloppy Stockholm variety. Since [ɧ] mostly occurs initially and rs finally, there shouldn't be any chance of misunderstanding, as far as I know. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 13:45, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
There's a small number of minimal pairs for the [ɧ] and [ɕ] sounds such as skön/kön (comfortable/gender - sex organ), skyla/kyla (conceal/chill), skär/kär (pink/in love), skjuta/tjuta (shoot/howl), sköld/köld (shield/cold), stjärna/kärna (star/core) etc. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 18:23, 5 August 2012 (UTC)
Fair point, although I've already pointed out the need for differentiation above myself; as a German speaker, I'd use (and have in fact already used in the past, out of ignorance) [ç] as in German ich instead of [ɕ], which would avoid the merger; interestingly, [ç] is replaced with [ɕ] or a nonlabialised [ʃ] in some dialects and regional or subcultural accents in Germany anyway. So as a teacher with students who natively speak German, I'd recommend this workaround if they have trouble reproducing the standard pronunciation. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 02:32, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
Late reply, but using [ç] for [ɕ], wouldn't in itself cause any confusion, I think. 惑乱 Wakuran (talk) 10:22, 17 October 2018 (UTC)

Similar to [ç]?![edit]

No way. The Swedish sound acoustically and articulatorily similar to [ç] is /ɕ/ (tje-ljudet), which actually contrasts with /ɧ/ and is indeed pronounced as [ç] in many a Swedish dialect as well as in the neighbouring Norwegian language. The /ɧ/ may be compared to an Ich-Laut because of the [x]-component, but it is nothing like a palatal fricative, and its degree of palatalization is very weak compared to [ç] and to tje-ljudet. It's either a labialized palato-alveolar, or a labialized velar, but never in-between these two places of articulation, and the labialization always make sure to lower the formants and makes it "darker" in sound compared to your typical palatal or palatalized fricative.-- (talk) 21:56, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

Voiceless approximant?[edit]

Some time ago I had an idea: Might [ɧ] really be the missing fourth member in the list at Approximant consonant#Coarticulated approximants with dedicated IPA symbols – a voiceless labialised palatal approximant (i. e., a consonantal [y̥])? That makes a lot of sense to me. It would certainly fit the variant which has been described as labialised voiceless palatal fricative, at least, and given that [ʍ] seems to have a tendency to excresce a velar fricative at the beginning and to sound more like [x͡ɸ], it might fit the other variant too – the velarised postpalatal fricative.

(Incidentally, I might note that a voiceless labialised velar approximant can approximate low-pitched whistling, and a voiceless labialised palatal approximant can approximate high-pitched whistling, or produce it as a side-effect, especially when the lips are strongly protruded and the constriction very narrow/small.) --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:35, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

I only just noticed that Denelson83 has already expressed a very similar idea right at the top of the page. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 22:40, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

I've noticed that the voiceless labialized palatal approximant now has a page of its own. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 02:25, 4 December 2015 (UTC)


It seems that the glyph for ɧ is incorrect (the lower hook curves right) in Helvetica/Helvetica Neue (the default sans-serif font on Macs, and thus used for body text on Wikipedia). What is the best way to avoid rendering the character incorrectly? Hftf (talk) 00:41, 15 November 2014 (UTC)

@Hftf: Get a better font, like Gentium Plus. — Eru·tuon 01:48, 5 June 2019 (UTC)

I am on a mac and the symbol is incorrect. This is a MAJOR error in terms of the IPA, since the rightwards hook is used for retroflex sounds. (talk) 01:34, 5 June 2019 (UTC)


The audio clip on the page sounds to me like [xʷ]. Just saying. --AndreRD (talk) 04:43, 19 November 2014 (UTC)

Sj-sound file[edit]

The word skjuta "to shoot", as pronounced in Standard SwedishSmåländskaNorrland SwedishFinland Swedish and Rinkeby Swedish, respectively.

The Finland Swedish sample is completely wrong, as a native speaker of Finland Swedish I clearly hear that it sounds like a Standard Swedish speaker trying to pronounce a "y" with a strong finnish accent; it's not near a finland swedish u sound! It has to be corrrected. Can someone help me to make a separate file where I can pronounce it correctly? EiptRbkt (talk) 15:02, 23 January 2019 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by EiptRbkt (talkcontribs) 08:35, 19 January 2019 (UTC)

@EiptRbkt: Why don't you record yourself pronouncing it and upload it to Wikimedia Commons? Nardog (talk) 15:21, 20 January 2019 (UTC)
Done! Here it is:
Can I add it to the sj-sound wikipedia article and the swedish phonology wikipedia article? — Preceding unsigned comment added by EiptRbkt (talkcontribs) 13:13, 23 January 2019 (UTC)
@EiptRbkt: The sj-sound in your pronunciation is clearly affricated. Are you sure it's accurate? (Finland Swedish says /ɕ/ is affricated in the dialect so perhaps /ɧ/ is merged with /ɕ/ in FS?) Either way it's not a good illustration unless the affrication is explained. Nardog (talk) 14:07, 23 January 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: I hear initial [ɕ] in the recording, not an affricate. Kbb2 (ex. Mr KEBAB) (talk) 14:36, 23 January 2019 (UTC)

Oh, yes, I notice! The microphone on my telephone apparently isn't very good, because of 14 recordings I heard any kind of sj-sound only in three, so it's hard to say it so that the microphone captures it. Additionaly, how the recording sounded changed hughely when I had to convert it from a .amr file to a .ogg file (I noticed the affrication first when I listened it as a .amr file again, so probably also the speakers are unreliable). But, I can try to do it again. EiptRbkt (talk) 15:02, 23 January 2019 (UTC)

This is the best I can get for now, I can try maybe tomorrow or so again with the telephone, and if it still doesn't work, I'll try to record it with better equipment! EiptRbkt (talk) 15:11, 23 January 2019 (UTC)

Kbb2 That's also true: from my recorder (with headphones) .amr file I clearly hear an affricate, allmost a tʂ sound, but as a .ogg file on wikipedia at least I, from my headphones, hear a quite clear ɕ. I probably said somesting between a ɕ and a ʃ (it should be a ʃ) EiptRbkt (talk) 18:18, 23 January 2019 (UTC)

@EiptRbkt: You should just overwrite the existing file on Commons. 34~35 kbps is very low quality. You should try 96 or 128 kbps. Nardog (talk) 09:44, 24 January 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: How do I overweite a file, and how do I try with 96 or 128 kbps? EiptRbkt (talk) 16:22, 24 January 2019 (UTC)
@EiptRbkt: Just set the file name to that of the existing one in the upload form. You can delete the other files by placing {{SD|G7}} on the corresponding description pages on Commons if you want to.
Is it possible for you to send me the AMR file (via Dropbox, email, etc.)? If the original file is already of poor quality, it's not going to work, but if it isn't, I'll see what I can do. Nardog (talk) 16:29, 24 January 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: I do think the original .amr file is of poor quality, because, as said, the microphone of my phone works very poorly, it barely captures some sounds here and there (on most of the files I've recorded I hear only --ta or -ōːta instead of ʃōːta; I would need a better microphone to record it. Still, I can try to send one of my .amr files to you, yes, but I doubt it'll work. EiptRbkt (talk) 16:40, 24 January 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: What is your gmail address? EiptRbkt (talk) 17:16, 25 January 2019 (UTC)
@EiptRbkt: Just send me an email via the "Email this user" feature and we can start from there. Nardog (talk) 18:58, 25 January 2019 (UTC)
The word skjuta "to shoot", as pronounced in Standard SwedishSmåländskaNorrland SwedishFinland Swedish and Rinkeby Swedish, respectively.

Could you maybe edit the file by cutting off the wrong FS pronunciation, and editing in, adding, my file to that file to, the right place? EiptRbkt (talk) 20:19, 28 January 2019 (UTC)

@EiptRbkt: Done. (Again, you might have to clear your browser cache.) Nardog (talk) 00:31, 30 January 2019 (UTC)
@Nardog: Thank you very much! EiptRbkt (talk) 19:39, 31 January 2019 (UTC)