Voiceless palatal fricative

Voiceless palatal fricative
IPA number 138
Entity (decimal) ç
Unicode (hex) U+00E7
Kirshenbaum C
Braille ⠖ (braille pattern dots-235)⠉ (braille pattern dots-14)
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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, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is C. It is the non-sibilant equivalent of the voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant.

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 the voiceless post-palatal fricative[2] in some languages, which is articulated slightly more back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical voiceless palatal fricative, though not as back as the prototypical voiceless velar fricative. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ç̠, ç˗ (both symbols denote a retracted ç) or (advanced x). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are C_- and x_+, respectively.

Especially in broad transcription, the voiceless post-palatal fricative may be transcribed as a palatalized voiceless velar fricative ( in the IPA, x' or x_j in X-SAMPA).


Features of the voiceless palatal fricative:



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Assamese সীমা/xima [çima] 'limit/border'
Azerbaijani[3] Some dialects çörək [tʃœˈɾæç] 'bread' Allophone of /c/.
Berber Kabyle til [çtil] 'to measure'
Danish Standard[4] pjaske [ˈpçæsɡ̊ə] 'splash' May be alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead.[4] Before /j/, aspiration in /pʰ, tˢ, kʰ/ is realized as devoicing and fortition of /j/.[4] Note, however, that the sequence /tˢj/ is normally realized as an affricate [t͡ɕ].[5] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Netherlandic[6] wiegje [ˈʋiçjə] 'crib' Allophone of /x/ before /j/ for some speakers.[6] See Dutch phonology
English Australian[7] hue [çʉː] 'hue' Phonetic realization of the sequence /hj/.[7][8][9] See Australian English phonology and English phonology
Scouse[10] like [laɪ̯ç] 'like' Allophone of /k/; ranges from palatal to uvular, depending on the preceding vowel.[10] See English phonology
Finnish vihko [ˈʋiçko̞] 'notebook' Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
German nicht  [nɪçt]  'not' Allophone of /x/. See German phonology
Haida xíl [çɪ́l] 'leaf'
Hungarian[11] 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[12] /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[13] kjekk [çɛ̝kː] 'handsome' Often alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead; younger speakers in Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo merge it with /ʂ/.[13] See Norwegian phonology
Pashto Ghilji dialect[14] پښه [pça] 'foot'
Wardak dialect
Romanian Muntenian dialects[15] fir [çir] 'thread' Allophone of /f/ before /i/.[15] Realized as [f] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[16] eich [eç] 'horses'
Spanish Chilean[17] mujer [muˈçe̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Walloon texhe [tɛç] 'to knit'
Welsh hiaith [çaɪ̯θ] 'language' Occurs in words where /h/ comes before /j/ due to h-prothesis of the original word, i.e. jaɪ̯θ iaith 'language' becomes ei hiaith 'her language', resulting in /j/ i/ç/ hi.[18]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Belarusian Typically transcribed with . See Belarusian phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[6] acht [ɑx̟t] 'eight' May be velar [x] instead.[6] See Dutch phonology
Southern accents[6]
Greek[19] ψυχή/psy(c)hí  [ps̠iˈç̠i]  'soul' See Modern Greek phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[20] ich [ɪ̞x̟] 'I' Allophone of /x/ before and after front vowels.[20]
Lithuanian[21][22] Very rare;[23] typically transcribed with . See Lithuanian phonology
Russian Standard[24] хинди/hindi [ˈx̟indʲɪ] 'Hindi' Typically transcribed with . See Russian phonology
Spanish[25] mujer [muˈx̟e̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels.[25] See Spanish phonology
Ukrainian хід/khid [x̟id̪] 'course' Typically transcribed with . See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[26] Weakly fricated; occurs word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is post-velar [].[26]

See also


  1. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 167–168.
  2. Instead of "post-palatal", it can be called "retracted palatal", "backed palatal", "palato-velar", "pre-velar", "advanced velar", "fronted velar" or "front-velar". For simplicity, this article uses only the term "post-palatal".
  3. Damirchizadeh (1972), p. 96.
  4. 1 2 3 Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  5. Grønnum (2005), p. 148.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Collins & Mees (2003), p. 191.
  7. 1 2 Cox (2012), p. 149.
  8. 1 2 Roach (2009), p. 43.
  9. 1 2 Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2016-03-13
  10. 1 2 Watson (2007), p. 353.
  11. Siptár & Törkenczy (2007), p. 205.
  12. Okada (1991), p. 95.
  13. 1 2 Kristoffersen (2000), p. 23.
  14. Henderson (1983), p. 595.
  15. 1 2 Pop (1938), p. 30.
  16. Oftedal (1956), p. ?.
  17. Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Page 113
  18. Ball & Watkins (1993), pp. 300–301.
  19. Arvaniti (2007), p. 20.
  20. 1 2 Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  21. Mathiassen (1996), pp. 22–23).
  22. Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 36.
  23. Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 35.
  24. Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015), p. 223.
  25. 1 2 Canellada & Madsen (1987), p. 21.
  26. 1 2 Sjoberg (1963), p. 11.


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