Voiceless pharyngeal fricative

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Voiceless pharyngeal fricative
IPA Number144
Entity (decimal)ħ
Unicode (hex)U+0127
Braille⠖ (braille pattern dots-235)⠓ (braille pattern dots-125)
Audio sample

The voiceless pharyngeal fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is an h-bar, ⟨ħ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is X\. In the transcription of Arabic, Berber and Hebrew as well as a few other scripts, it is often written ⟨Ḥ⟩, ⟨ḥ⟩.

Typically characterized as a fricative in the upper pharynx, it is often characterized as a whispered [h].


Features of the voiceless pharyngeal 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 pharyngeal, which means it is articulated with the tongue root against the back of the throat (the pharynx).
  • 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.


This sound is the most commonly cited realization of the Semitic letter hēth, which occurs in all dialects of Arabic, Classical Syriac, as well as Biblical and Tiberian Hebrew but only a minority of speakers of Modern Hebrew. It has also been reconstructed as appearing in Ancient Egyptian, a related Afro-Asiatic language. Modern non-Oriental Hebrew has merged the voiceless pharyngeal fricative with the voiceless velar (or uvular) fricative. However, phonetic studies have shown that the so-called voiceless pharyngeal fricatives of Semitic languages are often neither pharyngeal (but rather epiglottal) nor fricatives (but rather approximants).[1]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abaza хIахъвы/kh'akh"vy [ħaqʷə] 'stone'
Abkhaz ҳара/khara [ħaˈra] 'we' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe тхьэ/tkh'ė About this sound[tħa]  'god'
Agul мухI/mukh' [muħ] 'barn'
Arabic[2] ح‍‍ال‎/al About this sound[ħaːl]  'situation' See Arabic phonology
Essaouira[3] شلوح‎/šlū [ʃluːħ] 'chleuh'
Archi хIал/kh'al [ħal] 'state'
Assyrian Western ܡܫܝܚܐ mšìa [mʃiːħɔ] 'Christ' Corresponds with [x] in most other dialects.
Avar xIебецI/kh'ebets' [ħeˈbetsʼ] 'earwax'
Azerbaijani əhdaş [æħd̪ɑʃ] 'instrument'
Chechen ач / About this sound[ħatʃ]  'plum'
English Some speakers, mostly of Received Pronunciation[4] hat [ħæʔt] 'hat' Glottal [h] for other speakers.[4] See English phonology
Galician[5] Some dialects gato [ˈħatʊ] 'cat' Corresponds to /ɡ/ in other dialects. See gheada
Hebrew חַשְׁמַל‎/chashemal About this sound[ħaʃˈmal]  'electricity' Oriental dialects only. See Modern Hebrew phonology
Jarawa हवावा/hwꝍwꝍ [ħʷəwə] 'wild boar'
Kabardian кхъухь/kkh"ukh' About this sound[q͡χʷəħ]  'ship'
Kabyle ⴻⴼⴼⴰⴼ
[aħəfːaf] 'hairdresser'
Kurdish Most speakers ol About this sound[ħol]  'environment' Corresponds to /h/ in some Kurdish dialects
Maltese Standard wieħed [wiħːet] 'one'
Nuu-chah-nulth ʔaap-ii [ʔaːpˈħiː] 'friendly'
Sioux Nakota haxdanahâ [haħdanahã] 'yesterday'
Somali xood About this sound[ħoːd]  'cane' See Somali phonology
Ukrainian[6] нігті/nigti [ˈnʲiħtʲi] 'fingernails' Allophone of /ʕ/ (which may be transcribed /ɦ/) before voiceless consonants;[6] can be fronted to [x] in some "weak positions".[6] See Ukrainian phonology

See also[edit]



  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981], The Phonetics of English and Dutch (5th ed.), Leiden: Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004103406
  • Danyenko, Andrii; Vakulenko, Serhii (1995), Ukrainian, Lincom Europa, ISBN 9783929075083
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19815-6
  • Regueira, Xose (1996). "Galician". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 26 (2): 119–122. doi:10.1017/s0025100300006162.
  • Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press
  • Francisco, Felipe Benjamin (2019). O dialeto árabe de Essaouira: documentação e descrição de uma variedade do sul do Marrocos (PhD). São Paulo: University of São Paulo. doi:10.11606/T.8.2019.tde-29102019-180034. S2CID 214469852.

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