Voiceless glottal fricative

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For consonants followed by the superscript ʰ, see Aspirated consonant.
Voiceless glottal fricative
IPA number 146
Entity (decimal) h
Unicode (hex) U+0068
Kirshenbaum h
Braille ⠓ (braille pattern dots-125)

The voiceless glottal fricative, sometimes called voiceless glottal transition, and sometimes called the aspirate,[1][2] is a type of sound used in some spoken languages that patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨h⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h.

Although [h] has been described as a voiceless vowel because in many languages, it lacks the place and manner of articulation of a prototypical consonant, it also lacks the height and backness of a prototypical vowel:

[h and ɦ] have been described as voiceless or breathy voiced counterparts of the vowels that follow them [but] the shape of the vocal tract […] is often simply that of the surrounding sounds. […] Accordingly, in such cases it is more appropriate to regard h and ɦ as segments that have only a laryngeal specification, and are unmarked for all other features. There are other languages [such as Hebrew and Arabic] which show a more definite displacement of the formant frequencies for h, suggesting it has a [glottal] constriction associated with its production.[3]

The Lamé language[clarification needed] contrasts voiceless and voiced glottal fricatives.[4]


Features of the "voiceless glottal fricative":

  • In some languages, it has the constricted manner of articulation of a fricative. However, in many if not most it is a transitional state of the glottis, with no manner of articulation other than its phonation type. Because there is no other constriction to produce friction in the vocal tract in the languages they are familiar with, many phoneticians[who?] no longer consider [h] to be a fricative. However, the term "fricative" is generally retained for historical reasons.
  • It may have a glottal place of articulation. However, it may have no fricative articulation, in which case the term 'glottal' only refers to the nature of its phonation, and does not describe the location of the stricture nor the turbulence. All consonants except for the glottals, and all vowels, have an individual place of articulation in addition to the state of the glottis. As with all other consonants, surrounding vowels influence the pronunciation [h], and [h] has sometimes been presented as a voiceless vowel, having the place of articulation of these surrounding vowels.
  • 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.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.
  • 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
Adyghe Shapsug хыгь [həɡʲ] 'now' Corresponds to [x] in other dialects.
Albanian hire [hiɾɛ][stress?] 'the graces'
Arabic Standard[5] هائل [ˈhaːʔɪl] 'enormous' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[6] հայերեն About this sound [hɑjɛɾɛn]  'Armenian'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic haymanoota [haymaːnuːtʰa] 'faith'
Asturian guae [ˈɣwahe̞] 'child' Mainly present in eastern dialects.
Avar гьа [ha] 'oath'
Basque North-Eastern dialects[7] hirur [hiɾur] 'three' Can be voiced [ɦ] instead.
Bengali হাওয়া [hawa] 'wind'
Berber aherkus [ahǝrkus] 'shoe'
Chechen хIара hara [hɑrɐ] 'this'
Chinese Cantonese ho4 [hɔː] 'river' See Cantonese phonology
Mandarin hé [hɤ˧˥] 'river' Can be a velar fricative [x] for some speakers. See Standard Chinese phonology
Danish[4] hus [ˈhuːˀs] 'house' Often voiced [ɦ] when between vowels.[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Northern Netherlands[8] rood [hoːt] 'red' An extremely rare realization of /r/. Realization of /r/ varies considerably among dialects. See Dutch phonology
Friesland haat [haːt] 'hate' Word-initial allophone of /ɦ/.
Holland Some dialects. Corresponds to [ɦ] in standard Dutch.
English high [haɪ̯] 'high' See English phonology and H-dropping
Esperanto hejmo [hejmo] 'home' See Esperanto phonology
Eastern Lombard Val Camonica Bresa [brɛhɔ] 'Brescia' Corresponds to /s/ in other varieties.
Faroese hon [hoːn] 'she'
Finnish hammas [hɑmːɑs] 'tooth' See Finnish phonology
French Belgian hotte [ˈhɔt] 'pannier' Found in the region of Liège. See French phonology
Georgian[9] ავა [hɑvɑ] 'climate'
German[10] Hass [has] 'hatred' See German phonology
Greek Cypriot[11] μαχαζί [mahaˈzi] 'shop' Allophone of /x/ before /a/.
Hawaiian[12] haka [haka] 'shelf' See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrew הר [haʁ] 'mountain' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindi Standard[5] हम [ˈhəm] 'we' See Hindustani phonology
Hmong hawm [haɨ̰] 'to honor'
Hungarian helyes [hɛjɛʃ] 'right' See Hungarian phonology
Italian Tuscan[13] i capitani [iˌhäɸiˈθäːni] 'the captains' Intervocalic allophone of /k/.[13] See Italian phonology
Japanese すはだ suhada [su͍hada] 'bare skin' See Japanese phonology
Korean 호랑이 horang-i [ho̞ɾɐŋi] 'tiger' See Korean phonology
Kabardian тхылъхэ [tχɪɬhɑ] 'books'
Lakota ho [ho] 'voice'
Lao ຫ້າ [haː˧˩] 'five'
Leonese guaje [ˈwahe̞] 'boy'
Lezgian гьек [hek] 'glue'
Limburgish Some dialects[14][15] hòs [hɔːs] 'glove' Voiced [ɦ] in other dialects. The example word is from the Weert dialect.
Luxembourgish[16] hei [hɑ̝i̯] 'here' See Luxembourgish phonology
Malay hari [hari] 'day'
Mutsun hučekniš [hut͡ʃɛkniʃ] 'dog'
Navajo hastiin [hàsd̥ìːn]
Norwegian hatt [hɑtː] 'hat' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto هو [ho] 'yes'
Persian هفت [hæft] 'seven' See Persian phonology
Pirahã hi [hì] 'he'
Portuguese Many Brazilian dialects[17] marreta [maˈhetɐ] 'sledgehammer' Allophone of /ʁ/. [h, ɦ] are marginal sounds to many speakers, particularly out of Brazil. See Portuguese phonology
Most dialects Honda [ˈhõ̞dɐ] 'Honda'
Colloquial Brazilian[18][19] chuvisco [ɕuˈvihku] 'drizzle' Corresponds to either /s/ or /ʃ/ (depending on dialect) in the syllable coda. Might also be deleted.
Romanian hăţ [həts] 'bridle' See Romanian phonology
Serbo-Croatian Croatian[20] хмељ hmelj [hmê̞ʎ̟] 'hops' Allophone of /x/ when it is initial in a consonant cluster.[20] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Spanish[21] Andalusian higo [ˈhiɣo̞] 'fig' Corresponds to Old Spanish /h/, which was developed from Latin /f/ but muted in other dialects.
Many dialects obispo [o̞ˈβ̞ihpo̞] 'bishop' Allophone of /s/. See Spanish phonology
Some dialects jaca [ˈhaka] 'pony' Corresponds to /x/ in other dialects.
Swedish hatt [ˈhatː] 'hat' See Swedish phonology
Thai ห้า [haː˥˩] 'five'
Turkish halı [häˈɫɯ] 'carpet' See Turkish phonology
Ubykh [dwaha] 'prayer' See Ubykh phonology
Urdu Standard[5] ہم [ˈhəm] 'we' See Hindi-Urdu phonology
Vietnamese[22] hiểu [hjew˧˩˧] 'understand' See Vietnamese phonology
Welsh haul [ˈhaɨl] 'sun' See Welsh orthography
West Frisian hoeke [ˈhukə] 'corner'
Yi hxa [ha˧] 'hundred'

See also[edit]



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