Voiceless palatal fricative

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 fricative.

Voiceless palatal fricative
IPA Number138
Entity (decimal)ç
Unicode (hex)U+00E7
Audio sample
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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 and Portuguese 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:

  • Its place of articulation is palatal, which means it is articulated with the middle or back part of the tongue raised to the hard palate. The otherwise identical post-palatal variant is articulated slightly behind the hard palate, making it sound slightly closer to the velar [x].
  • 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.



Azerbaijani[3]Some dialectsçörək[tʃœˈɾæç]'bread'Allophone of /c/.
DanishStandard[4]pjaske[ˈpça̝sɡ̊ə]'splash'May be alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead.[4] Before /j/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing and fortition of /j/.[4] Note, however, that the sequence /tj/ is normally realized as an affricate [t͡ɕ].[5] See Danish phonology
DutchStandard Northern[6]wiegje[ˈʋiçjə]'crib'Allophone of /x/ before /j/ for some speakers.[6] See Dutch phonology
EnglishAustralian[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
Finnishvihko[ʋiçko̞]'notebook'Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
Germannicht[nɪçt] 'not'Traditionally allophone of /x/, but phonemic for some speakers who have both /aːx/ and /aːç/ (< /aʁç/). See Standard German phonology.
HmongWhite (Dawb)xya[ça]'seven'Corresponds to alveolo-palatal /ɕ/ in Dananshan dialect
Green (Njua)
Hungarian[11]kapj[ˈkɒpç]'get' (imperative)Allophone of /j/ between a voiceless obstruent and a word boundary. See Hungarian phonology
Icelandichérna[ˈçɛrtn̥a]'here'See Icelandic phonology
Irisha Sheáin[ə çaːnʲ]'John' (voc.)See Irish phonology
Japanese[12]/hito[çi̥to̞]'person'Allophone of /h/ before /i/ and /j/. See Japanese phonology
Kabyletil[çtil]'to measure'
Korean /him[çim]'strength'Allophone of /h/ word-initially before /i/ and /j/. See Korean phonology
NorwegianUrban East[13]kjekk[çe̞kː]'handsome'Often alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead; younger speakers in Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo merge it with /ʂ/.[13] See Norwegian phonology
PashtoGhilji dialect[14]پښه[pça]'foot'
Wardak dialect
RomanianMuntenian dialects[15]fir[çir]'thread'Allophone of /f/ before /i/.[15] Realized as [f] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
RussianStandard[16]твёрдый/tvjordyj[ˈt̪ʋʲɵrd̪ɨ̞ç] 'hard'Possible realization of /j/.[16] See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[17]eich[eç]'horses'
SpanishChilean[18]mujer[muˈçe̞ɾ]'woman'Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Walloontexhe[tɛç]'to knit'
Welshhiaith[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.[19]


BelarusianTypically transcribed in IPA with . See Belarusian phonology
DutchStandard Belgian[6]acht[ɑx̟t]'eight'May be velar [x] instead.[6] See Dutch phonology
Southern accents[6]
Greek[20]ψυχή/psychí[ps̠iˈç̠i] 'soul'See Modern Greek phonology
LimburgishWeert dialect[21]ich[ɪ̞x̟]'I'Allophone of /x/ before and after front vowels.[21]
Lithuanian[22][23]Very rare;[24] typically transcribed in IPA with . See Lithuanian phonology
RussianStandard[16]хинди/hindi[ˈx̟indʲɪ]'Hindi'Typically transcribed in IPA with . See Russian phonology
Spanish[25]mujer[muˈx̟e̞ɾ]'woman'Allophone of /x/ before front vowels.[25] See Spanish phonology
Ukrainianхід/khid[x̟id̪]'course'Typically transcribed in IPA 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. Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  5. Grønnum (2005), p. 148.
  6. Collins & Mees (2003), p. 191.
  7. Cox & Fletcher (2017), p. 159.
  8. Roach (2009), p. 43.
  9. Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2016-03-13
  10. Watson (2007), p. 353.
  11. Siptár & Törkenczy (2007), p. 205.
  12. Okada (1999), p. 118.
  13. Kristoffersen (2000), p. 23.
  14. Henderson (1983), p. 595.
  15. Pop (1938), p. 30.
  16. Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015), p. 223.
  17. Oftedal (1956), p. ?.
  18. Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Page 113
  19. Ball & Watkins (1993), pp. 300–301.
  20. Arvaniti (2007), p. 20.
  21. Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  22. Mathiassen (1996), pp. 22–23).
  23. Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 36.
  24. Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 35.
  25. Canellada & Madsen (1987), p. 21.
  26. Sjoberg (1963), p. 11.


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