Voiceless postalveolar fricative

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A voiceless postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The International Phonetic Association uses the term voiceless postalveolar fricative only for the sound [ ʃ ],[1] but it also describes the voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative [ɹ̠̊˔], for which there are significant perceptual differences.

Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative[edit]

Voiceless postalveolar fricative
IPA Number134
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ʃ
Unicode (hex)U+0283
Braille⠱ (braille pattern dots-156)

A voiceless palato-alveolar fricative or voiceless domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in many languages, including English. In English, it is usually spelled ⟨sh⟩, as in ship.

Postalveolar fricative [ʃ, ʒ]

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is  ʃ , the letter esh introduced by Isaac Pitman (not to be confused with the integral symbol ⟨∫⟩). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is S.

An alternative symbol is š, an s with a caron or háček, which is used in the Americanist phonetic notation and the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, as well as in the scientific and ISO 9 transliterations of Cyrillic. It originated with the Czech orthography of Jan Hus and was adopted in Gaj's Latin alphabet and other Latin alphabets of Slavic languages. It also features in the orthographies of many Baltic, Finno-Samic, North American and African languages.


Features of the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe шыд [ʃəd] 'donkey'
Albanian shtëpi [ʃtəˈpi] 'house'
Arabic Modern Standard[2] شَمْس [ʃams] 'sun' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[3] շուն [ʃun] 'dog'
Aromanian shi [ʃi] 'and'
Asturian xera [ˈʃeɾa] 'work'
Azerbaijani şeir [ʃeiɾ] 'poem'
Assyrian ܫܒܬܐ šebta [ʃεbta] 'Saturday'
Bashkir биш / biš [bʲiʃ] 'five'
Basque kaixo [kajʃ̺o] 'hello'
Breton chadenn [ˈʃadɛ̃n] 'chain'
Bulgarian юнашки [juˈnaʃki] 'heroically' See Bulgarian phonology
Chechen шура / şura ['ʃurə] 'milk'
Chuvash шурă ['ʃurə] 'white'
Czech kaše [ˈkaʃɛ] 'mash' See Czech phonology
Dutch[4] sjabloon [ʃäˈbloːn] 'template' May be [sʲ] or [ɕ] instead. See Dutch phonology
English sheep [ˈʃiːp] 'sheep' See English phonology
Esperanto ŝelko [ˈʃelko] 'suspenders' See Esperanto phonology
Estonian šaakal [ˈʃɑːkːɑl] 'jackal' Occurs only in loanwords. See Estonian phonology
Faroese sjúkrahús [ʃʉukrahʉus] 'hospital' See Faroese phonology
French[5] cher [ʃɛʁ] 'expensive' See French phonology
Finnish šekki [ʃekːi] 'check' Occurs only in loanwords. See Finnish phonology
Galician viaxe [ˈbjaʃe] 'trip' See Galician phonology
Georgian[6] არი [ˈʃɑɾi] 'quibbling'
German Standard[7] schön [ʃøːn] 'beautiful' Laminal or apico-laminal and strongly labialized.[7] See Standard German phonology
Globasa xanti [ʃäntʰi] 'peace'
Greek Cypriot ασσιήμια [ɐˈʃːimɲɐ] 'ugliness' Contrasts with /ʃ/ and /ʒː/
Pontic ςςον [ʃo̞n] 'snow'
Hebrew שָׁלוֹם [ʃaˈlom] 'peace' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindi [ʃək] 'doubt' See Hindustani phonology
Hungarian segítség [ˈʃɛɡiːt͡ʃːeːɡ] 'help' See Hungarian phonology
Ilocano siák [ʃak] 'I'
Irish sí [ʃiː] 'she' See Irish phonology
Italian Marked accents of Emilia-Romagna[8] sali [ˈʃäːli] 'you go up' Apical non-labialized; may be [s̺ʲ] or [ʂ] instead.[8] It corresponds to [s] in standard Italian. See Italian phonology
Standard[9] fasce [ˈfäʃːe] 'bands' See Italian phonology
Kabardian шыд [ʃɛd] 'donkey' Contrasts with a labialized form
Kabyle ciwer [ʃiwər] 'to consult'
Kashubian[10] nasz [naʃ] 'our' See Kashubian language
Kannada Colloquial ಶಾಟ ʃ āta 'pubic hair' See Kannada
Kazakh шаш / şaş [ʃаʃ] 'hair'
Kurdish şev [ʃɛv] 'night' See Kurdish phonology
Latvian šalle [ˈʃalːe] 'scarf' See Latvian phonology
Limburgish Maastrichtian[11] sjat [ʃɑ̽t] 'darling' Laminal post-alveolar with an unclear amount of palatalization.[12]
Lingala shakú [ʃakú] 'grey parrot'
Lithuanian šarvas [ˈʃɐrˑvɐs] 'armor' See Lithuanian phonology
Macedonian што [ʃtɔ] 'what' See Macedonian phonology
Malay syarikat [ʃarikat] 'company'
Maltese x′jismek? [ˈʃjɪsmɛk] 'what is your name?'
Marathi ब्द [ˈʃəbd̪ə] 'word' See Marathi phonology
Mayan Yucatec ko'ox [koʔoʃ] 'let's go'
Mopan kax [kɑːʃ] 'chicken'
Mutsun raṭmašte [ɾɑʈmɑʃtɛ] 'having acne'
Neapolitan scugnizzo [ʃkuˈɲːitt͡sə] 'urchin'
Occitan Auvergnat maissant [meˈʃɔ̃] 'bad' See Occitan phonology
Gascon maishant [maˈʃan]
Limousin son [ʃũ] 'his'
Persian شاه [ʃɒːh] 'king' See Persian phonology
Polish Gmina Istebna siano [ˈʃän̪ɔ] 'hay' /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ merge into [ʃ] in these dialects. In standard Polish, /ʃ/ is commonly used to transcribe what actually is a laminal voiceless retroflex sibilant
Lubawa dialect[13]
Malbork dialect[13]
Ostróda dialect[13]
Warmia dialect[13]
Portuguese[14][15] xamã [ʃɐˈmɐ̃] 'shaman' Also described as alveolo-palatal [ɕ].[16][17][18] See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਸ਼ੇ [ʃeːɾ] 'lion'
Romani deš [deʃ] 'ten'
Romanian șefi [ʃefʲ] 'bosses' See Romanian phonology
Russian шум [ʃum] 'noise'
Sahaptin šíš [ʃiʃ] 'mush'
Scottish Gaelic seinn [ʃeiɲ] 'sing' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian škola [ʃkôːla] 'school' See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Silesian Gmina Istebna[19] [example needed] These dialects merge /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ into [ʃ]
Jablunkov[19] [example needed]
Slovak šál [ʃaːl] 'scarf' See Slovak phonology
Slovene šola [ˈʃóːlà] 'school' See Slovene phonology
Somali shan [ʃan] 'five' See Somali phonology
New Mexican echador [eʃaˈðoɾ] 'boastful' Corresponds to [t͡ʃ] in other dialects. See Spanish phonology
Northern Mexico[20]
Panamanian chocolate [ʃokoˈlate] 'chocolate'
Southern Andalusia
Rioplatense ayer [aˈʃeɾ] 'yesterday' May be voiced [ʒ] instead. See Spanish phonology and yeísmo
Swahili shule [ʃule] 'school'
Tagalog siya [ʃa] 'he/she' See Tagalog phonology
Toda[21] [pɔʃ] 'language' Contrasts /θ s̪ s̠ ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ/.[22]
Tunica šíhkali [ˈʃihkali] 'stone'
Turkish güneş [ɟyˈne̞ʃ] 'sun' See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[23] шахи ['ʃɑxɪ] 'chess' See Ukrainian phonology
Urdu شکریہ [ʃʊkˈriːaː] 'thank you' See Hindustani phonology
Uyghur شەھەر [ʃæhær] 'city'
Uzbek bosh [bɒʃ] 'head'
Walloon texhou [tɛʃu] 'knit fabric'
Welsh Standard siarad [ˈʃɑːrad] 'speak' See Welsh phonology
Southern dialects mis [miːʃ] 'month'
West Frisian sjippe [ˈʃɪpə] 'soap' See West Frisian phonology
Western Lombard Canzés fescia [feʃa] 'nuisance'
Yiddish וויסנשאַפֿטלעכע [vɪsn̩ʃaftləχə] 'scientific' See Yiddish phonology
Yoruba í [ʃi] 'open'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[24] xana [ʃana] 'how?'

In various languages, including English and French, it may have simultaneous labialization, i.e. [ʃʷ], although this is usually not transcribed.

Classical Latin did not have [ʃ], though it does occur in most Romance languages. For example, ⟨ch⟩ in French chanteur "singer" is pronounced /ʃ/. Chanteur is descended from Latin cantare, where ⟨c⟩ was pronounced /k/. The ⟨sc⟩ in Latin scientia "science" was pronounced /sk/, but has shifted to /ʃ/ in Italian scienza.

Similarly, Proto-Germanic had neither [ʃ] nor [ʂ], yet many of its descendants do. In most cases, this [ʃ] or [ʂ] descends from a Proto-Germanic /sk/. For instance, Proto-Germanic *skipą ("hollow object, water-borne vessel larger than a boat") was pronounced /ˈski.pɑ̃/. The English word "ship" /ʃɪp/ has been pronounced without the /sk/ the longest, the word being descended from Old English "scip" /ʃip/, which already also had the [ʃ], though the Old English spelling etymologically indicated that the old /sk/ had once been present.

This change took longer to catch on in West Germanic languages other than Old English, though it eventually did. The second West Germanic language to undergo this sound shift was Old High German. In fact, it has been argued that Old High German's /sk/ was actually already [s̠k], because a single [s] had already shifted to []. Furthermore, by Middle High German, that /s̠k/ had shifted to [ʃ]. After High German, the shift most likely then occurred in Low Saxon. After Low Saxon, Middle Dutch began the shift, but it stopped shifting once it reached /sx/, and has kept that pronunciation since. Then, most likely through influence from German and Low Saxon, North Frisian experienced the shift.

Then, Swedish quite swiftly underwent the shift, which resulted in the very uncommon [ɧ] phoneme, which, aside from Swedish, is only used in Colognian, a variety of High German, though not as a replacement for the standard High German /ʃ/ but a coronalized /ç/. However, the exact realization of Swedish /ɧ/ varies considerably among dialects; for instance, in Northern dialects it tends to be realized as [ʂ]. See sj-sound for more details. Finally, the last to undergo the shift was Norwegian, in which the result of the shift was [ʃ].

The sound in Russian denoted by ⟨ш⟩ is commonly transcribed as a palato-alveolar fricative but is actually an apical retroflex fricative.[25]

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative[edit]

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative
IPA Number151 414 402B 429
Audio sample
Voiceless postalveolar approximant

The voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative is a consonantal sound. As the International Phonetic Alphabet does not have separate symbols for the post-alveolar consonants (the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that are not palatalized), this sound is usually transcribed ɹ̠̊˔ (retracted constricted voiceless [ɹ]). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\_-_0_r.

Some scholars also posit the voiceless postalveolar approximant distinct from the fricative. The approximant may be represented in the IPA as ɹ̠̊.


  • 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. However, it does not have the grooved tongue and directed airflow, or the high frequencies, of a sibilant.
  • Its place of articulation is postalveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge.
  • 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 intercostal muscles and abdominal muscles, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Bengali[26] Some pronunciations আবার [ˈäbäɹ̠̊] 'again' Apical; possible allophone of /ɹ/ in the syllable coda.[27] See Bengali phonology
English Received Pronunciation[28] crew [kɹ̠̊˔ʊu̯] 'crew' Only partially devoiced. It is a realization of /r/ after the word-initial fortis plosives /p, k/, unless they are preceded by /s/ within the same syllable.[29] See English phonology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IPA i-charts (2018)". International Phonetic Association. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  2. ^ Thelwall (1990), p. 37.
  3. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 18.
  4. ^ Gussenhoven (1992), p. 46.
  5. ^ Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  6. ^ Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  7. ^ a b Mangold (2005:51)
  8. ^ a b Canepari (1992), p. 73.
  9. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004), p. 117.
  10. ^ Treder, Jerzy. "Fonetyka i fonologia". Rastko. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02.
  11. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 156.
  12. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:156). The authors state that /ʃ/ is "pre-palatal, articulated with the blade of the tongue against the post-alveolar place of articulation". This makes it unclear whether this sound is palato-alveolar (somewhat palatalized post-alveolar) or alveolo-palatal (strongly palatalized post-alveolar).
  13. ^ a b c d Dubisz, Karaś & Kolis (1995), p. 62.
  14. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  15. ^ Medina (2010).
  16. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000).
  17. ^ Silva (2003), p. 32.
  18. ^ Guimarães (2004).
  19. ^ a b Dąbrowska (2004:?)
  20. ^ Cotton & Sharp (2001:15)
  21. ^ Ladefoged (2005:168)
  22. ^ Krishnamurti (2003), p. 66.
  23. ^ Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 4.
  24. ^ Merrill (2008), p. 108.
  25. ^ Silke, Hamann (2004). "Retroflex fricatives in Slavic languages" (PDF). Journal of the International Phonetic Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-14.
  26. ^ Khan (2010), p. 224.
  27. ^ Khan (2010), pp. 223–224.
  28. ^ Roach (2004), pp. 240–241.
  29. ^ Roach (2004), p. 240.


External links[edit]