Voiceless pharyngeal fricative

The voiceless pharyngeal fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is an h-bar, ħ. In the transcription of Arabic, Hebrew and other scripts, it is often written , .

Voiceless pharyngeal fricative
IPA Number144
Entity (decimal)ħ
Unicode (hex)U+0127
Audio sample
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Typically characterized as a fricative in the upper pharynx, it is often characterized as a whispered [h].


Features of the voiceless pharyngeal fricative:

  • 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.


This sound is the most commonly cited realization of the Semitic letter hēth, which occurs in all dialects of Arabic, Classical Syriac, as well as Biblical and Tiberian Hebrew but only a minority of speakers of Modern Hebrew. It has also been reconstructed as appearing in Ancient Egyptian, a related Afro-Asiatic language. Modern non-Oriental Hebrew has merged the voiceless pharyngeal fricative with the voiceless velar (or uvular) fricative. However, phonetic studies have shown that the so-called voiceless pharyngeal fricatives of Semitic languages are often neither pharyngeal (but rather epiglottal) nor fricatives (but rather approximants).[1]

Abkhazҳара[ħaˈra]'we'See Abkhaz phonology
Adygheтхьэ[tħa] 'god'
Arabic[2]حال[ħaːl] 'situation'See Arabic phonology
Chechenач / [ħatʃ] 'plum'
EnglishSome speakers, mostly of Received Pronunciation[3]hat[ħaʔt]'hat'Glottal [h] for other speakers.[3] See English phonology
Galician[4]Some dialectsgato[ˈħatʊ]'cat'Corresponds to /ɡ/ in other dialects. See gheada
Hebrewחַשְׁמַל[ħaʃˈmal] 'electricity'Oriental dialects only. See Modern Hebrew phonology
Jarawa[ħʷəwə]'wild boar'
Kabardianкхъухь[q͡χʷəħ] 'ship'
KurdishSome speakersol[ħol] 'environment'Corresponds to /h/ in most Kurdish dialects
Somalixood[ħoːd] 'cane'See Somali phonology
SyriacChaldean Neo-Aramaicܡܫܝܼܚܵܐ[mʃiːħa]'Christ'Corresponds with [x] in other Syriac varieties such as Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.
Ukrainian[5]нігті[ˈnʲiħtʲi]'fingernails'Allophone of /ʕ/ (which may be transcribed /ɦ/) before voiceless consonants;[5] can be fronted to [x] in some "weak positions".[5] See Ukrainian phonology

See also



  • Collins, Beverley; Mees, Inger M. (2003) [First published 1981], The Phonetics of English and Dutch (PDF) (5th ed.), Leiden: Brill Publishers, ISBN 9004103406
  • Danyenko, Andrii; Vakulenko, Serhii (1995), Ukrainian, Lincom Europa, ISBN 9783929075083
  • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996), The sounds of the World's Languages, Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-19815-6
  • Regueira, Xose (1996). "Galician". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 26 (2): 119–122. doi:10.1017/s0025100300006162.
  • Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press
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