Affricate consonant

An affricate is a consonant that begins as a stop and releases as a fricative, generally with the same place of articulation (most often coronal). It is often difficult to decide if a stop and fricative form a single phoneme or a consonant pair.[1] English has two affricate phonemes, /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/, often spelled ch and j, respectively.

See also


The English sounds spelled "ch" and "j" (broadly transcribed as [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ] in the IPA), German and Italian z [t͡s] and Italian z [d͡z] are typical affricates, and sounds like these are fairly common in the world's languages, as are other affricates with similar sounds, such as those in Polish and Chinese. However, voiced affricates other than [d͡ʒ] are relatively uncommon. For several places of articulation they are not attested at all.

Much less common are labiodental affricates, such as [p͡f] in German and Izi, or velar affricates, such as [k͡x] in Tswana (written kg) or in High Alemannic Swiss German dialects. Worldwide, relatively few languages have affricates in these positions even though the corresponding stop consonants, [p] and [k], are common or virtually universal. Also less common are alveolar affricates where the fricative release is lateral, such as the [t͡ɬ] sound found in Nahuatl and Navajo. Some other Athabaskan languages, such as Dene Suline, have unaspirated, aspirated, and ejective series of affricates whose release may be dental, alveolar, postalveolar, or lateral: [t̪͡θ], [t̪͡θʰ], [t̪͡θʼ], [t͡s], [t͡sʰ], [t͡sʼ], [t͡ʃ], [t͡ʃʰ], [t͡ʃʼ], [t͡ɬ], [t͡ɬʰ], and [t͡ɬʼ].


Affricates are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by a combination of two letters, one for the stop element and the other for the fricative element. In order to show that these are parts of a single consonant, a tie bar is generally used. The tie bar appears most commonly above the two letters, but may be placed under them if it fits better there, or simply because it is more legible.[2] Thus:

  • p͡f, t͡s, d͡z, t͡ɬ, d͡ɮ, t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ, t͡ɕ, d͡ʑ, ʈ͡ʂ, ɖ͡ʐ, k͡x


  • p͜f, t͜s, d͜z, t͜ɬ, d͜ɮ, t͜ʃ, d͜ʒ, t͜ɕ, d͜ʑ, ʈ͜ʂ, ɖ͜ʐ, k͜x.

A less common notation indicates the release of the affricate with a superscript:

  • .pᶠ, tˢ, dᶻ, tᶴ, dᶾ, kˣ

This is derived from the IPA convention of indicating other releases with a superscript. However, this convention is more typically used for a fricated release that is too brief to be considered a true affricate.

Though they are no longer standard IPA, ligatures are available in Unicode for eight common affricates

  • ʦ ʣ, ʧ ʤ, ʨ ʥ, .

Any of these notations can be used to distinguish an affricate from a sequence of a stop plus a fricative, which exists in some languages such as Polish. However, in languages where there is no such distinction, such as English, the tie bars are commonly dropped.

In other phonetic transcription systems, such as the Americanist system, affricates may be transcribed with single letters. The affricates [t͡s], [d͡z], [t͡ʃ], [d͡ʒ], [t͡ɬ], [d͡ɮ] are transcribed respectively as c or ¢; j, ƶ, or (older) ʒ; c or č; ǰ, ǧ, or (older) ǯ; ƛ; and λ or dl. Within the IPA, [tʃ] and [dʒ] are sometimes transcribed with the symbols for the palatal stops, c and ɟ.

Affricates vs. stop–fricative sequences

In some languages, affricates contrast phonemically with stop–fricative sequences:

  • Polish affricate /ʈ͡ʂ/ in czysta 'clean (f.)' versus stop–fricative /tʂ/ in trzysta 'three hundred'.[3]
  • Klallam affricate /t͡s/ in k’ʷə́nc 'look at me' versus stop–fricative /ts/ in k’ʷə́nts 'he looks at it'.

The exact phonetic difference varies between languages. In stop–fricative sequences, the stop has a release burst before the fricative starts; but in affricates, the fricative element is the release. Phonologically, stop–fricative sequences may have a syllable boundary between the two segments, but not necessarily.

In English, /ts/ and /dz/ (nuts, nods) are considered phonemically stop–fricative sequences. They often contain a morpheme boundary (for example, nuts = nut + s). The English affricate phonemes /t͡ʃ/ and /d͡ʒ/ do not generally contain morpheme boundaries. Depending on dialect, English speakers may distinguish an affricate from a stop–fricative sequence in some contexts such as when the sequence occurs across syllable boundaries:

  • bent shudder /bɛnt.ʃʌdəɹ/[bɛnʔʃʌdəɹ]
  • bench udder /bɛnt͡ʃ.ʌdəɹ/[bɛnt͡ʃʌdəɹ]

The /t/ in 'bent shudder' debuccalizes to a glottal stop before /ʃ/ in many dialects, making it phonetically distinct from /t͡ʃ/.

One acoustic criterion for differentiating affricates and stop–fricative sequences is the rate of amplitude increase of the frication noise, which is known as the rise time. Affricates have a short rise time to the peak frication amplitude; stop–fricative sequences have longer rise times (Howell & Rosen 1983, Johnson 2003, Mitani et al. 2006).

List of affricates

In the case of coronals, the symbols t, d are normally used for the stop portion of the affricate regardless of place. For example, [t͡ʂ] is commonly seen for [ʈ͡ʂ].

The exemplar languages are ones that have been reported to have these sounds, but in several cases they may need confirmation.

Sibilant affricates

Voiceless alveolar affricate German z, tz
Japanese つ/ツ [tsu͍]
Mandarin c (pinyin)
Italian zz
Pashto څ
Voiced alveolar affricate Japanese (some dialects)
Italian z
Pashto ځ
Voiceless dental affricate Hungarian c
Macedonian ц
Serbo-Croatian c/ц
Polish c
Voiced dental affricate Hungarian dz
Macedonian ѕ
Bulgarian дз
Polish dz
Voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate Japanese ち/チ [tɕi]

Mandarin q (pinyin)
Polish ć, ci
Serbo-Croatian ć/ћ

Voiced alveolo-palatal affricate Japanese じ/ジ, ぢ/ヂ [dʑi]
Polish , dzi
Serbo-Croatian đ/ђ
Voiceless palato-alveolar affricate English ch, tch
French tch
German tsch
Hungarian cs
Italian ci, ce
K'iche' ch
Persian چ
Spanish ch
Voiced postalveolar affricate Arabic ج
English j, g
French dj
Hungarian dzs
Italian gi, ge
Voiceless retroflex affricate Mandarin ch (pinyin)
Polish cz
Serbo-Croatian č/ч
Slovak č
Vietnamese tr
Voiced retroflex affricate Polish
Serbo-Croatian /џ

The Northwest Caucasian languages Abkhaz and Ubykh both contrast sibilant affricates at four places of articulation: alveolar, postalveolar, alveolo-palatal and retroflex. They also distinguish voiceless, voiced, and ejective affricates at each of these.

When a language only has one type of affricate, it is usually a sibilant; this is the case in e.g. Arabic ([d̠ʒ]), most dialects of Spanish ([t̠ʃ]), and Thai ([tɕ]).

Non-sibilant affricates

Sound (voiceless)IPALanguagesSound (voiced)IPALanguages
Voiceless bilabial affricate[pɸ]Present allophonically in Kaingang and Taos. Not reported as a phoneme in any natural language.Voiced bilabial affricate[bβ]Not attested in any natural language
Voiceless bilabial-labiodental affricate[pf]German, TekeVoiced bilabial-labiodental affricate[bv]Teke
Voiceless labiodental affricate[p̪f]XiNkuna Tsonga Voiced labiodental affricate[b̪v]XiNkuna Tsonga
Voiceless dental non-sibilant affricate[t̪θ]New York English, Luo, Dene Suline, Cun, some varieties of Venetian and other North Italian dialects Voiced dental non-sibilant affricate[d̪ð]New York English, Dene Suline
Voiceless retroflex non-sibilant affricate[tɻ̝̊]Mapudungun , Malagasy Voiced retroflex non-sibilant affricate[dɻ̝]Malagasy
Voiceless palatal affricate[cç]Skolt Sami (younger speakers), Hungarian (casual speech), Albanian (transcribed as [c]), allophonically in Kaingang Voiced palatal affricate[ɟʝ]Skolt Sami (younger speakers), Hungarian (casual speech), Albanian (transcribed as [ɟ]), some Spanish dialects. Not reported to contrast with a voiced palatal plosive [ɟ]
Voiceless velar affricate[kx]Tswana, High Alemannic GermanVoiced velar affricate[ɡɣ]English
Voiceless uvular affricate[qχ]Nez Percé, Wolof, Bats, Kabardian, Avar, Tsez. Not reported to contrast with a voiceless uvular plosive [q] in natural languages.Voiced uvular affricate[ɢʁ]Not attested in any natural language
Voiceless pharyngeal affricate[ʡħ]Haida. Not reported to contrast with an epiglottal stop [ʡ]Voiced pharyngeal affricate[ʡʕ]

Lateral affricates

Voiceless alveolar lateral affricate[tɬ]Cherokee, Nahuatl, Navajo, Tswana, etc.
Voiced alveolar lateral affricate[dɮ]Gwich'in, Sandawe. Not reported to ever contrast with a voiced alveolar lateral fricative [ɮ].
Voiceless palatal lateral affricate[cʎ̥˔]also c; as ejective [cʎ̥˔ʼ] = [cʼ] in Dahalo; as [tʎ̥˔] = [t] in Hadza.
Voiceless velar lateral affricate[kʟ̝̊]also k; as a prevelar in Archi and as an ejective [kʟ̝̊ʼ] = [kʼ] in Zulu, also exist in the Laghuu language.
Voiced velar lateral affricate[ɡʟ̝]Laghuu.

Trilled affricates

Voiced prenasalized trilled bilabial affricate[mbʙ]Kele and Avava
Voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate[t̪ʙ̥]Pirahã and Wari’
Voiced prenasalized trilled alveolar affricate[ndr]Fijian and Avava
Voiceless alveolar trilled affricate[tʳ]Ngkoth
Voiced alveolar trilled affricate[dʳ]Nias
Voiceless epiglottal (trilled pharyngeal) affricate[ʡʜ]
Voiced epiglottal (trilled pharyngeal) affricate[ʡʢ]Hydaburg Haida. Cognate to Southern Haida [ɢ], Masset Haida [ʕ].[4]

Heterorganic affricates

Although most affricates are homorganic, Navajo and Chiricahua Apache have a heterorganic alveolar-velar affricate [tx] (Hoijer & Opler 1938, Young & Morgan 1987, Ladefoged & Maddeison 1996, McDonough 2003, McDonough & Wood 2008, Iskarous, 2012). Wari’ and Pirahã have a voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate [t̪ʙ̥] (see #Trilled affricates). Other heterorganic affricates are reported for Northern Sotho (Johnson 2003) and other Bantu languages such as Phuthi, which has alveolar–labiodental affricates [tf] and [dv], and Sesotho, which has bilabial–palatoalveolar afficates [pʃ] and [bʒ]. Djeoromitxi (Pies 1992) has [ps] and [bz].

Phonation, coarticulation and other variants

The more common of the voiceless affricates are all attested as ejectives as well: [tθʼ, tsʼ, tɬʼ, tʃʼ, tɕʼ, tʂʼ, cʎ̥ʼ, kxʼ, kʟ̝̊ʼ]. Several Khoisan languages such as !Xóõ are reported to have voiced ejective affricates, but these may actually be consonant clusters: [dtsʼ, dtʃʼ]. Affricates are also commonly aspirated: [ɱp̪fʰ, tθʰ, tsʰ, tɬʰ, tʃʰ, tɕʰ, tʂʰ], occasionally murmured: [ɱb̪vʱ, d̠ʒʱ], and sometimes prenasalized: [ⁿdz, ⁿdzʱ, ᶯɖʐ, ᶯɖʐʱ]. Labialized, palatalized, velarized, and pharyngealized affricates also occur. Affricates may also have phonemic length, that is, affected by a chroneme, as in Italian and Karelian.

Phonological representation

In phonology, affricates tend to behave similarly to stops, taking part in phonological patterns that fricatives do not. Kehrein analyzes phonetic affricates as phonological stops.[5] A sibilant or lateral (and presumably trilled) stop can be realized phonetically only as an affricate and so might be analyzed phonemically as a sibilant or lateral stop. In that analysis, affricates other than sibilants and laterals are a phonetic mechanism for distinguishing stops at similar places of articulation (like more than one labial, coronal, or dorsal place). For example, Chipewyan has laminal dental [t̪͡θ] vs. apical alveolar [t]; other languages may contrast velar [k] with palatal [c͡ç] and uvular [q͡χ]. Affricates may also be a strategy to increase the phonetic contrast between aspirated or ejective and tenuis consonants.

According to Kehrein, no language contrasts a non-sibilant, non-lateral affricate with a stop at the same place of articulation and with the same phonation and airstream mechanism, such as /t̪/ and /t̪θ/ or /k/ and /kx/.

In feature-based phonology, affricates are distinguished from stops by the feature [+delayed release].[6]


Affrication (sometimes called affricatization) is a sound change by which a consonant, usually a stop or fricative, changes into an affricate. Examples include:

  • Proto-Germanic /k/ > Modern English /tʃ/, as in chin (cf. German Kinn: Anglo-Frisian palatalization)
  • Proto-Semitic /ɡ/ > Standard Arabic /d͡ʒ/ in all positions, as in جمل /d͡ʒamal/ (camel) (cf. Aramaic: גמלא (gamlā’), Amharic: ግመል (gəmäl), and Hebrew: גמל (gamal)).
  • Early Modern English /tj, dj/ > /tʃ dʒ/ (yod-coalescence)
  • /p, t, k/ > /pf, ts, kx/ in the High German consonant shift
  • [t] > [ts, tɕ] before [ɯᵝ, i] respectively in 16th-century Japanese[7]
  • [r] > [dʒ, dʑ] word-initially in Udmurt[8]


In rare instances, a fricative–stop contour may occur. This is the case in dialects of Scottish Gaelic that have velar frication [ˣ] where other dialects have pre-aspiration. For example, in the Harris dialect there is [ʃaˣkʰ] 'seven' and [əhʷɔˣkʰ] 'eight' (or [ʃax͜kʰ], [əhʷɔx͜kʰ]).[9]

See also


  1. Peter Roach, Engelish Phonetics and Phonology Glassary Archived April 12, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, 2009
  2. For example, in Niesler, Louw, & Roux (2005) Phonetic analysis of Afrikaans, English, Xhosa and Zulu using South African speech databases
  3. Gussmann, Edmund (2007), The Phonology of Polish, Oxford University Press, p. 7, ISBN 978-0-19-926747-7
  4. "Bessell 1993" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-06-05.
  5. Kehrein (2002) Phonological Representation and Phonetic Phasing
  6. Hayes, Bruce (2009). Introductory Phonology. Blackwell. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-1-4051-8411-3.
  7. Takayama, Tomoaki (2015). "15– Historical Phonology". In Kubozono, Haruo (ed.). Handbook of Japanese Phonetics and Phonology. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. pp. 629–630. ISBN 9781614511984. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  8. Csúcs, Sándor (2005). Die Rekonstruktion der permischen Grundsprache. Bibliotheca Uralica (in German). 13. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. p. 139. ISBN 963-05-8184-1.
  9. Laver (1994) Principles of Phonetics, p. 374.
  • Hoijer, Harry; & Opler, Morris E. (1938). Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache texts. The University of Chicago publications in anthropology; Linguistic series. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Howell Peter; & Rosen, Stuart. (1983). Production and perception of rise time in the voiceless affricate/fricative distinction. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 73 (3), 976–984.
  • Iskarous, K; McDonough, J; & Whalen, D. (2012) A gestural account of the velar fricative in Navajo. Journal of Laboratory Phonology 195-210.
  • Johnson, Keith. (2003). Acoustic & auditory phonetics (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Ladefoged, P. (1995) A Course in Phonetics (5th ed] Wadsworth, Inc
  • Ladefoged, P; & Maddieson, I. (1996) Sounds of the Worlds Languages. Blackwell.
  • Maddieson, Ian. (1984). Patterns of sounds. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-26536-3
  • McDonough, J (2003) The Navajo Sound System. Kluwer
  • McDonough, Joyce; & Wood, Valerie. (2008). The stop contrasts of the Athabaskan languages. Journal of Phonetics 36, 427-449.
  • Mitani, Shigeki; Kitama, Toshihiro; & Sato, Yu. (2006). Voiceless affricate/fricative distinction by frication duration and amplitude rise slope. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 120 (3), 1600–1607.
  • Young, R & Morgan W. (1987) The Navajo Language. University of New Mexico Press.
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