Voiced pharyngeal fricative

The voiced pharyngeal approximant or fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is [ʕ], and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is ?\. Epiglottals and epiglotto-pharyngeals are often mistakenly taken to be pharyngeal.

Voiced pharyngeal fricative
IPA Number145
Entity (decimal)ʕ
Unicode (hex)U+0295
Audio sample
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Voiced pharyngeal approximant

Although traditionally placed in the fricative row of the IPA chart, [ʕ] is usually an approximant. The IPA symbol itself is ambiguous, but no language is known to make a phonemic distinction between fricatives and approximants at this place of articulation. The approximant is sometimes specified as [ʕ̞] or as [ɑ̯], because it is the semivocalic equivalent of [ɑ].


Features of the voiced pharyngeal approximant fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation varies between approximant and fricative, which means it is produced by narrowing the vocal tract at the place of articulation, but generally not enough to produce much turbulence in the airstream. Languages do not distinguish voiced fricatives from approximants produced in the throat.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Pharyngeal consonants are not widespread. Sometimes, a pharyngeal approximant develops from a uvular approximant. Many languages that have been described as having pharyngeal fricatives or approximants turn out on closer inspection to have epiglottal consonants instead. For example, the candidate /ʕ/ sound in Arabic and standard Hebrew (not modern Hebrew – Israelis generally pronounce this as a glottal stop) has been variously described as a voiced epiglottal fricative, an epiglottal approximant,[1] or a pharyngealized glottal stop.[2]

Arabicثعبان‏[θuʕbaːn]'snake'See Arabic phonology
Assyrian/SyriacEasternܬܲܪܥܵܐ / tarèɑ[tarʕɑː]'door'The majority of the speakers will pronounce the word as [tərɑː].
Westernܐܰܪܥܳܐ / arèɑ[arʕo]'Earth'
Azerbaijani ʻelə [ʕe̞l̪æ] 'do' In the northern and southern dialects.
ChechenӀан / jan[ʕan] 'winter'
Coeur d'Alene /stʕin/ 'antelope' [3]
Copticϣⲁⲓ / ʕšai[əʕˈʃai]'to multiply'
DanishStandard[4]ravn[ʕ̞ɑ̈wˀn]'raven'An approximant;[4] also described as uvular [ʁ].[5] See Danish phonology
DutchLimburg[6]rad[ʕ̞ɑt]'wheel'An approximant; a possible realization of /r/.[6] Realization of /r/ varies considerably among dialects. See Dutch phonology
GermanSome speakers[7]Mutter[ˈmutɔʕ̞]'mother'An approximant; occurs in East Central Germany, Southwestern Germany, parts of Switzerland and in Tyrol.[7] See Standard German phonology
Swabian dialect[8]ändard[ˈend̥aʕ̞d̥]'changes'An approximant.[8] It's an allophone of /ʁ/ in nucleus and coda positions;[8] pronounced as a uvular approximant in onsets.[8]
HebrewIraqiעברית[ʕibˈriːθ]'Hebrew language'See Modern Hebrew phonology
Kabyle[9]ɛemmi[ʕəmːi]'my (paternal) uncle'
Marshalleseenana[ɛ̯ɛnæ͡ɑʕnæ͡ɑʕ]'it is bad'
OccitanSouthern Auvergnatpala[ˈpaʕa]'shovel'See Occitan phonology
Somalicunto[ʕuntɔ]'food'See Somali phonology

See also


  1. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:167–168)
  2. Thelwall (1990)
  3. Doak, I. G. (1997). Coeur d'Alene grammatical relations (Doctorate dissertation). Austin, TX: University of Texas at Austin.
  4. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:323)
  5. Basbøll (2005:62)
  6. Collins & Mees (2003:201)
  7. Dudenredaktion, Kleiner & Knöbl (2015:51)
  8. Markus Hiller. "Pharyngeals and "lax" vowel quality" (PDF). Mannheim: Institut für Deutsche Sprache. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-28. Retrieved 2015-02-24.
  9. Bonafont (2006:9)


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