Voiced bilabial fricative

The voiced bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is β, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B. The symbol β is the Greek letter beta.

Voiced bilabial fricative
IPA Number127
Entity (decimal)β
Unicode (hex)U+03B2
Audio sample
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Voiced bilabial approximant
Audio sample
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This letter is also often used to represent the bilabial approximant, though that is more clearly written with a lowering diacritic, that is β̞. Theoretically, it could also be transcribed as an advanced labiodental approximant ʋ̟, but this symbol is hardly ever, if at all, used so. It has been proposed that either a turned ⟨β⟩ or reversed ⟨β⟩ be used as a dedicated symbol for the bilabial approximant, but despite occasional usage this has not gained general acceptance.[1]

It is extremely rare for a language to make a phonemic contrast between the voiced bilabial fricative and the bilabial approximant. The Mapos Buang language of New Guinea contains this contrast. Its bilabial approximant is analyzed as filling a phonological gap in the labiovelar series of the consonant system rather than the bilabial series.[2]

The bilabial fricative is diachronically unstable and is likely to shift to [v].[3]

The sound is not used in English dialects except for Chicano English, but it can be produced by approximating the normal English [v] between the lips.


Features of the voiced bilabial fricative:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.


Voiced bilabial fricative

Bengaliভিসা[βisa]'Visa'See Bengali phonology
Min Dong ChineseFuzhou[4]/ chĕ̤ báik[t͡sœ˥˧βaiʔ˨˦]'eighth day of the month'Allophone of /p/ and /pʰ/ in certain intervocalic positions.[4]
Comorian Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
Dahalo[5][koːβo]'to want'Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /b/, and may be simply a plosive [b] instead.[5]
EnglishChicanovery[βɛɹi]'very'May be realized as [b] instead.
Ewe[6]Eʋe[èβe]'Ewe'Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
German[7][8]aber[ˈaːβɐ]'but'Intervocalic and pre-lateral allophone of /b/ in casual speech.[7][8] See Standard German phonology
Hebrew אבל ['äˈβal] 'however'
Kabylebri[βri]'to cut'
Korean/chuhu/[ˈt͡ɕʰuβʷu]'later'Allophone of /h/. See Korean phonology
Luhya Nabongo [naβonɡo] 'king' Title of the king like Nabongo Mumia from the Wanga Dialect
Mapos Buang[2] venġévsën [βəˈɴɛβt͡ʃen] 'prayer' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as {v}, and the approximant as {w}.[2]
PortugueseEuropean[9][10]bado[ˈsaβɐðu]'Saturday'Allophone of /b/. See Portuguese phonology
RipuarianColognianwing[βɪŋ]'wine'Allophone of syllable-initial /v/ for some speakers; can be [ʋ ~ w ~ ɰ] instead. See Colognian phonology
SardinianLogudorese dialect[11]paba[ˈpäːβä] 'pope'Intervocalic allophone of /b/ as well as word-initial /p/ when the preceding word ends with a vowel and there is no pause between the words.[11]
Turkish[12]vücut[βy̠ˈd͡ʒut̪]'body'Allophone of /v/ before and after rounded vowels.[12] See Turkish phonology
ZapotecTilquiapan[13] Allophone of /b/

Bilabial approximant

Amharic[14]አበባ[aβ̞əβ̞a]'flower'Allophone of /b/ medially between sonorants.[14]
Basque[15]alaba[alaβ̞a]'daughter'Allophone of /b/
Catalan[16]rebost[rəˈβ̞ɔst]'larder'Approximant or fricative. Allophone of /b/. Mainly found in betacist (/b/ and /v/ merging) dialects. See Catalan phonology
Japanese[17]神戸市/be-shi[ko̞ːβ̞e̞ ɕi]'Kobe'Allophone of /b/ only in fast speech between vowels. See Japanese phonology
Limburgish[18][19]wèlle[ˈβ̞ɛ̝lə]'to want'The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lombardel nava via[el 'naβ̞a 'β̞ia]'he was going away'Regular pronunciation of /v/ when intervocalic. Used also as an allophone for other positions.
Mapos Buang[2] wabeenġ [β̞a.ˈᵐbɛːɴ] 'kind of yam' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as {v}, and the approximant as {w}.[2]
OccitanGasconla-vetz[laβ̞ets]'then'Allophone of /b/
RipuarianKerkrade dialect[20]sjwaam[ʃβ̞aːm]'smoke'Weakly rounded; contrasts with /v/.[20]
Spanish[21]lava[ˈläβ̞ä]'lava'Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[22] Allophone of /b/. See Spanish phonology
SwedishCentral Standard[23]aber[ˈɑːβ̞eɾ]'problem'Allophone of /b/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Ukrainian[24]вона[β̞oˈnɑ]'she'An approximant; the most common prevocalic realization of /w/. Can vary with labiodental [ʋ].[24] See Ukrainian phonology

See also


  1. See for example Ball, Martin J.; Howard, Sara J.; Miller, Kirk (2018). "Revisions to the extIPA chart". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 48 (2): 155–164. doi:10.1017/S0025100317000147.
  2. Mose Lung Rambok and Bruce Hooley (2010). Central Buang‒English Dictionary (PDF). Summer Institute of Linguistics Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 9980 0 3589 7.
  3. Picard (1987:364), citing Pope (1966:92)
  4. Zhuqing (2002:?)
  5. Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  6. Ladefoged (2005:156)
  7. Krech et al. (2009:108)
  8. Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2013.. This source mentions only intervocalic [β].
  9. Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  10. Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  11. (Italian) http://www.antoninurubattu.it/rubattu/grammatica-sarda-italiano-sardo.html Archived 2015-01-01 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  13. Merrill (2008:109)
  14. Hayward & Hayward (1999:48)
  15. Hualde (1991:99–100)
  16. Wheeler (2005:10)
  17. Okada (1999:118)
  18. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:155)
  19. Peters (2006:117)
  20. Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997:17)
  21. Martínez-Celdrán et al. (2003:257)
  22. Phonetic studies such as Quilis (1981) have found that Spanish voiced stops may surface as spirants with various degrees of constriction. These allophones are not limited to regular fricative articulations, but range from articulations that involve a near complete oral closure to articulations involving a degree of aperture quite close to vocalization
  23. Engstrand (2004:167)
  24. Žovtobrjux & Kulyk (1965:121–122)


  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223
  • Engstrand, Olle (2004), Fonetikens grunder (in Swedish), Lund: Studenlitteratur, ISBN 91-44-04238-8
  • Göksel, Asli; Kerslake, Celia (2005), Turkish: a comprehensive grammar (PDF), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415114943, archived from the original (PDF) on 26 November 2014
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos; Aarts, Flor (1999), "The dialect of Maastricht" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, University of Nijmegen, Centre for Language Studies, 29: 155–166, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006526
  • Hayward, Katrina; Hayward, Richard J. (1999), "Amharic", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 45–50, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874, ISBN 0-521-65236-7
  • Hualde, José Ignacio (1991), Basque phonology, New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-05655-7
  • Krech, Eva Maria; Stock, Eberhard; Hirschfeld, Ursula; Anders, Lutz-Christian (2009), Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-018202-6
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.), Blackwell
  • Maddieson, Ian; Spajić, Siniša; Sands, Bonny; Ladefoged, Peter (1993), "Phonetic structures of Dahalo", in Maddieson, Ian (ed.), UCLA working papers in phonetics: Fieldwork studies of targeted languages, 84, Los Angeles: The UCLA Phonetics Laboratory Group, pp. 25–65
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana María; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 255–259, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001373
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344
  • Mateus, Maria Helena; d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000), The Phonology of Portuguese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-823581-X
  • Okada, Hideo (1999), "Japanese", in International Phonetic Association (ed.), Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge University Press, pp. 117–119, ISBN 978-0-52163751-0
  • Peters, Jörg (2006), "The dialect of Hasselt", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 36 (1): 117–124, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002428
  • Picard, Marc (1987), "On the Palatalization and Fricativization of W", International Journal of American Linguistics, 53 (3): 362–365, doi:10.1086/466063
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