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.

There is also a voiceless post-palatal fricative (also called pre-velar, fronted velar etc.) in some languages.


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. The otherwise identical post-palatal variant is articulated slightly behind the hard palate, making it sound slightly closer to the velar [x].
  • 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
Assamese সীমা/xima [çima] 'limit/border'
Azerbaijani[2] Some dialects çörək [tʃœˈɾæç] 'bread' Allophone of /c/.
Berber Kabyle til [çtil] 'to measure'
Danish Standard[3] pjaske [ˈpçæsɡ̊ə] 'splash' May be alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead.[3] Before /j/, aspiration in /pʰ, tˢ, kʰ/ is realized as devoicing and fortition of /j/.[3] Note, however, that the sequence /tˢj/ is normally realized as an affricate [t͡ɕ].[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Netherlandic[5] wiegje [ˈʋiçjə] 'crib' Allophone of /x/ before /j/ for some speakers.[5] See Dutch phonology
English Australian[6] hue [çʉː] 'hue' Phonetic realization of the sequence /hj/.[6][7][8] See Australian English phonology and English phonology
Scouse[9] like [laɪ̯ç] 'like' Allophone of /k/; ranges from palatal to uvular, depending on the preceding vowel.[9] 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
Haida xíl [çɪ́l] 'leaf'
Hungarian[10] kapj [ˈkɒpç] 'get' (imperative) Allophone of /j/ between a voiceless obstruent and a word boundary. See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic hérna [ˈçɛrtn̥a] 'here' See Icelandic phonology
Irish a Sheáin [ə çaːnʲ] 'John' (voc.) See Irish phonology
Japanese[11] /hito [çi̥to̞] 'person' Allophone of /h/ before /i/ and /j/. See Japanese phonology
Korean /him [çim] 'strength' Allophone of /h/ word-initially before /i/ and /j/. See Korean phonology
Norwegian Standard Eastern[12] kjekk [çɛ̝kː] 'handsome' Often alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead; younger speakers in Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo merge it with /ʂ/.[12] See Norwegian phonology
Pashto Ghilji dialect[13] پښه‎ [pça] 'foot'
Wardak dialect
Romanian Muntenian dialects[14] fir [çir] 'thread' Allophone of /f/ before /i/.[14] Realized as [f] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[15] eich [eç] 'horses'
Spanish Chilean[16] mujer [muˈçe̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Walloon texhe [tɛç] 'to knit'


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Belarusian [example needed] Typically transcribed with 〈〉. See Belarusian phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[5] acht [ɑç̠t] 'eight' May be velar [x] instead.[5] See Dutch phonology
Southern accents[5]
Greek[17] ψυχή About this sound [ps̠iˈç̠i]  'soul' See Modern Greek phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[18] ich [ɪ̞ç̠] 'I' Allophone of /x/ before and after front vowels.[18]
Lithuanian[19][20] [example needed] Very rare;[21] typically transcribed with 〈〉. See Lithuanian phonology
Russian Standard[22] хинди [ˈç̠inʲdʲɪ] 'Hindi' Typically transcribed with 〈〉. See Russian phonology
Spanish[23] mujer [muˈç̠e̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels.[23] See Spanish phonology
Ukrainian хід [ç̠id̪] 'course' Typically transcribed with 〈〉. See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[24] [example needed] Weakly fricated; occurs word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is post-velar.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 167–168.
  2. ^ Damirchizadeh (1972), p. 96.
  3. ^ a b c Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  4. ^ Grønnum (2005), p. 148.
  5. ^ a b c d e Collins & Mees (2003), p. 191.
  6. ^ a b Cox (2012), p. 149.
  7. ^ a b Roach (2009), p. 43.
  8. ^ a b Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2016-03-13 
  9. ^ a b Watson (2007), p. 353.
  10. ^ Siptár & Törkenczy (2007), p. 205.
  11. ^ Okada (1991), p. 95.
  12. ^ a b Kristoffersen (2000), p. 23.
  13. ^ Henderson (1983), p. 595.
  14. ^ a b Pop (1938), p. 30.
  15. ^ Oftedal (1956), p. ?.
  16. ^ Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Page 113
  17. ^ Arvaniti (2007), p. 20.
  18. ^ a b Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  19. ^ Mathiassen (1996), pp. 22–23).
  20. ^ Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 36.
  21. ^ Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 35.
  22. ^ Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015), p. 223.
  23. ^ a b Canellada & Madsen (1987), p. 21.
  24. ^ a b Sjoberg (1963), pp. 11.