Voiceless postalveolar fricative

Voiceless fricatives produced in the postalveolar region include the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative [ʃ], the voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative [ɹ̠̊˔], the voiceless retroflex fricative [ʂ], and the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative [ɕ]. This article discusses the first two.

Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative

Voiceless palato-alveolar fricative
IPA Number134
Entity (decimal)ʃ
Unicode (hex)U+0283
Audio sample
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A voiceless palato-alveolar fricative or voiceless domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in many languages, including English. In English, it is usually spelled sh, as in ship.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʃ, the letter esh introduced by Isaac Pitman (not to be confused with the integral symbol ). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is S.

An alternative symbol is š, an s with a caron or háček, which is used in the Americanist phonetic notation and the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, as well as in the scientific and ISO 9 transliterations of Cyrillic. It originated with the Czech orthography of Jan Hus and was adopted in Gaj's Latin alphabet and other Latin alphabets of Slavic languages. It also features in the orthographies of many Baltic, Finno-Samic, North American and African languages.


Features of the voiceless palato-alveolar fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is generally produced by channeling air flow along a groove in the back of the tongue up to the place of articulation, at which point it is focused against the sharp edge of the nearly clenched teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
  • 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.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe шыд [ʃəd] 'donkey'
Albanian shtëpi [ʃtəˈpi] 'house'
Arabic Modern Standard[1] شَمْس [ʃams] 'sun' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[2] շուն [ʃun] 'dog'
Aromanian shi [ʃi] 'and'
Asturian xera [ʃe.ɾa] 'work'
Azerbaijani şeir [ʃeiɾ] 'poem'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic ܫܟܠ [ʃəkla] 'picture'
Bashkir биш / biš [bʲiʃ]  'five'
Basque kaixo [kajʃ̺o] 'hello'
Bengali[ʃɔb]'all'See Bengali phonology
Breton chadenn [ˈʃa.dɛ̃n] 'chain'
Bulgarian юнашки [juˈnaʃki] 'heroically' See Bulgarian phonology
Czech kaše [ˈkaʃɛ] 'mash' See Czech phonology
Dutch[3] sjabloon [ʃäˈbloːn] 'template' May be [sʲ] or [ɕ] instead. See Dutch phonology
English a sheep [ə ˈʃiːp] 'a sheep' See English phonology
Esperanto ŝelko [ˈʃelko] 'suspenders' See Esperanto phonology
Faroese sjúkrahús [ʃʉukrahʉus] 'hospital' See Faroese phonology
French[4] cher [ʃɛʁ] 'expensive' See French phonology
Finnish šekki [ʃekːi] 'check' See Finnish phonology
Galician viaxe [ˈbjaʃe] 'trip' See Galician phonology
Georgian[5] არი [ˈʃɑɾi] 'quibbling'
German Standard[6] schön [ʃøːn] 'beautiful' Laminal or apico-laminal and strongly labialized.[6] See Standard German phonology
Greek Cypriot ασσιήμια [ɐˈʃːimɲɐ] 'ugliness' Contrasts with /ʃ/ and /ʒː/
Pontic ςςον [ʃo̞n] 'snow'
Hebrew שָׁלוֹם [ʃaˈlom] 'peace' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hindi [ʃək] 'doubt' See Hindustani phonology
Hungarian segítség [ˈʃɛɡiːt͡ʃːeːɡ] 'help' See Hungarian phonology
Ilocano siák [ʃak] 'I'
Irish sí [ʃiː] 'she' See Irish phonology
Italian Marked accents of Emilia-Romagna[7] sali [ˈʃäːli] 'you go up' Apical non-labialized; may be [s̺ʲ] or [ʂ] instead.[7] It corresponds to [s] in standard Italian. See Italian phonology
Standard[8] fasce [ˈfäʃːe] 'bands' See Italian phonology
Kabardian шыд [ʃɛd] 'donkey' Contrasts with a labialized form
Kabyleciwer[ʃiwər]'to consult'
Kashubian[9] nasz see Kashubian language.
Latvian šalle [ˈʃalːe] 'scarf' See Latvian phonology
Limburgish Maastrichtian[10] sjat [ʃɑ̽t] 'darling' Laminal post-alveolar with an unclear amount of palatalization.[11]
Lingala shakú [ʃakú] 'grey parrot'
Lithuanian šarvas [ˈʃɐrˑvɐs] 'armor' See Lithuanian phonology
Macedonian што [ʃtɔ] 'what' See Macedonian phonology
Malay syarikat [ʃarikat] 'company'
Maltese xjismek [ʃismek] 'what is your name'
Marathi ब्द [ˈʃəbˈd̪ə] 'word' See Marathi phonology
Mayan Yucatec ko'ox [koʔoʃ] 'let's go'
Mopan kax [kɑːʃ] 'chicken'
Mutsun raṭmašte [ɾɑʈmɑʃtɛ] 'having acne'
Neapolitan scugnizzo [ʃkuˈɲːitt͡sə] 'urchin'
Occitan Auvergnat maissant [meˈʃɔ̃] 'bad' See Occitan phonology
Gascon maishant [maˈʃan]
Limousin son [ʃũ] 'his'
Persian شاه [ʃɒːh] 'king' See Persian phonology
Polish Gmina Istebna siano [ˈʃän̪ɔ] 'hay' /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ merge into [ʃ] in these dialects. In standard Polish, /ʃ/ is commonly used to transcribe what actually is a laminal voiceless retroflex sibilant
Lubawa dialect[12]
Malbork dialect[12]
Ostróda dialect[12]
Warmia dialect[12]
Portuguese[13][14] xamã [ʃɐˈmɐ̃] 'shaman' Also described as alveolo-palatal [ɕ].[15][16][17] See Portuguese phonology
Punjabi ਸ਼ੇਰ [ʃeːɾ] 'lion'
Romani Vlax deš [deʃ] 'ten'
Romanian șefi [ʃefʲ] 'bosses' See Romanian phonology
Sahaptin šíš [ʃiʃ] 'mush'
Scottish Gaelic seinn [ʃeiɲ] 'sing' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Silesian Gmina Istebna[18] These dialects merge /ʂ/ and /ɕ/ into [ʃ]
Slovene šola [ˈʃóːlä] 'school' See Slovene phonology
Somali shan [ʃan] 'five' See Somali phonology
Spanish echador [e̞ʃäˈðo̞ɾ] 'boastful' Corresponds to [t͡ʃ] in other dialects. See Spanish phonology
New Mexican
Northern Mexico[19]
Southern Andalusia
Rioplatense ayer [äˈʃe̞ɾ] 'yesterday' May be voiced [ʒ] instead. See Spanish phonology and yeísmo
Swahili shule [ʃule] 'school'
Tagalog siya [ʃa] 'he/she' See Tagalog phonology
Toda[20] [pɔʃ] 'language'
Tunica šíhkali [ˈʃihkali] 'stone'
Turkish güneş [ɟyˈne̞ʃ] 'sun' See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[21] шахи ['ʃɑxɪ] 'chess' See Ukrainian phonology
Urdu شکریہ [ʃʊkˈriːaː] 'thank you' See Hindustani phonology
Uyghur شەھەر [ʃæhær] 'city'
Walloon texhou [tɛʃu] 'knit fabric'
Welsh Standard siarad [ˈʃɑːrad] 'speak' See Welsh phonology
Southern dialects mis [miːʃ] 'month'
West Frisian sjippe [ˈʃɪpə] 'soap' See West Frisian phonology
Western Lombard Canzés fescia [feʃa] 'nuisance'
Yiddish וויסנשאַפֿטלעכע [vɪsn̩ʃaftləχə] 'scientific' See Yiddish phonology
Yorùbá i [ʃi] 'open'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[22] xana [ʃana] 'how?'

In various languages, including English and French, it may have simultaneous labialization, i.e. [ʃʷ], although this is usually not transcribed.

Classical Latin did not have [ʃ], though it does occur in most Romance languages. For example, ch in French chanteur "singer" is pronounced /ʃ/. Chanteur is descended from Latin cantare, where c was pronounced /k/. The sc in Latin scientia "science" was pronounced /sk/, but has shifted to /ʃ/ in Italian scienza.

Similarly, Proto-Germanic had neither [ʃ] nor [ʂ], yet many of its descendants do. In most cases, this [ʃ] or [ʂ] descends from a Proto-Germanic /sk/. For instance, Proto-Germanic *skipą ("hollow object, water-borne vessel larger than a boat") was pronounced /ˈski.pɑ̃/. The English word "ship" /ʃɪp/ has been pronounced without the /sk/ the longest, the word being descended from Old English "scip" /ʃip/, which already also had the [ʃ], though the Old English spelling etymologically indicated that the old /sk/ had once been present.

This change took longer to catch on in West Germanic languages other than Old English, though it eventually did. The second West Germanic language to undergo this sound shift was Old High German. In fact, it has been argued that Old High German's /sk/ was actually already [s̠k], because a single [s] had already shifted to []. Furthermore, by Middle High German, that /s̠k/ had shifted to [ʃ]. After High German, the shift most likely then occurred in Low Saxon. After Low Saxon, Middle Dutch began the shift, but it stopped shifting once it reached /sx/, and has kept that pronunciation since. Then, most likely through influence from German and Low Saxon, North Frisian experienced the shift.

Then, Swedish quite swiftly underwent the shift, which resulted in the very uncommon [ɧ] phoneme, which, aside from Swedish, is only used in Colognian, a variety of High German, though not as a replacement for the standard High German /ʃ/ but a coronalized /ç/. However, the exact realization of Swedish /ɧ/ varies considerably among dialects; for instance, in Northern dialects it tends to be realized as [ʂ]. See sj-sound for more details. Finally, the last to undergo the shift was Norwegian, in which the result of the shift was [ʃ].

The sound in Russian denoted by ш is commonly transcribed as a palato-alveolar fricative but is actually a laminal retroflex fricative.

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative

Voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative
IPA Number151 414 402A 429
Audio sample
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The voiceless postalveolar non-sibilant fricative is a consonantal sound. As the International Phonetic Alphabet does not have separate symbols for the post-alveolar consonants (the same symbol is used for all coronal places of articulation that aren't palatalized), this sound is usually transcribed ɹ̠̊˔ (retracted constricted voiceless [ɹ]). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is r\_-_0_r.


  • Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence. However, it does not have the grooved tongue and directed airflow, or the high frequencies, of a sibilant.
  • Its place of articulation is postalveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge.
  • 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.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
English Irish[23] tree [tɹ̠̊˔iː] 'tree' Realization of /r/ after word-initial /t/, unless it is preceded by /s/ within the same syllable.[23] See English phonology
Received Pronunciation[24] crew [kɹ̠̊˔ʊu̯] 'crew' Only partially devoiced. It is a realization of /r/ after the word-initial fortis plosives /p, k/, unless they are preceded by /s/ within the same syllable.[25] See English phonology

See also


  1. Thelwall (1990), p. 37.
  2. Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 18.
  3. Gussenhoven (1992), p. 46.
  4. Fougeron & Smith (1993), p. 73.
  5. Shosted & Chikovani (2006), p. 255.
  6. Mangold (2005:51)
  7. Canepari (1992), p. 73.
  8. Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004), p. 117.
  9. Treder, Jerzy. "Fonetyka i fonologia". Rastko. Archived from the original on 2014-11-02.
  10. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 156.
  11. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:156). The authors state that /ʃ/ is "pre-palatal, articulated with the blade of the tongue against the post-alveolar place of articulation". This makes it unclear whether this sound is palato-alveolar (somewhat palatalized post-alveolar) or alveolo-palatal (strongly palatalized post-alveolar).
  12. Dubisz, Karaś & Kolis (1995), p. 62.
  13. Cruz-Ferreira (1995), p. 91.
  14. Medina (2010).
  15. Mateus & d'Andrade (2000).
  16. Silva (2003), p. 32.
  17. Guimarães (2004).
  18. Dąbrowska (2004:?)
  19. Cotton & Sharp (2001:15)
  20. Ladefoged (2005:168)
  21. Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 4.
  22. Merrill (2008), p. 108.
  23. "Irish English and Ulster English" (PDF). Uni Stuttgart. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 April 2014.
  24. Roach (2004), pp. 240–241.
  25. Roach (2004), p. 240.


  • Canepari, Luciano (1992), Il MªPi – Manuale di pronuncia italiana [Handbook of Italian Pronunciation] (in Italian), Bologna: Zanichelli, ISBN 88-08-24624-8
  • Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988), Spanish in the Americas, Georgetown University Press, ISBN 978-0-87840-094-2
  • Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena (1995), "European Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 25 (2): 90–94, doi:10.1017/S0025100300005223
  • Dąbrowska, Anna (2004), Język polski, Wrocław: wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, ISBN 83-7384-063-X
  • Dubisz, Stanisław; Karaś, Halina; Kolis, Nijola (1995), Dialekty i gwary polskie (in Polish), Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, ISBN 83-2140989-X
  • Danyenko, Andrii; Vakulenko, Serhii (1995), Ukrainian, Lincom Europa, ISBN 9783929075083
  • Dum-Tragut, Jasmine (2009), Armenian: Modern Eastern Armenian, Amsterdam: John Benjamins
  • Fougeron, Cecile; Smith, Caroline L (1993), "French", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 23 (2): 73–76, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004874
  • Guimarães, Daniela (2004), Seqüências de (Sibilante + Africada Alveopalatal) no Português Falado em Belo Horizonte (PDF), Belo Horizonte: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos (1992), "Dutch", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 22 (2): 45–47, doi:10.1017/S002510030000459X
  • ; Aarts, Flor (1999), "The dialect of Maastricht" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, University of Nijmegen, Centre for Language Studies, 29 (2): 155–166, doi:10.1017/S0025100300006526
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (2nd ed.), Blackwell
  • Mangold, Max (2005) [First published 1962], Das Aussprachewörterbuch (6th ed.), Mannheim: Dudenverlag, ISBN 978-3-411-04066-7
  • Mateus, Maria Helena; d'Andrade, Ernesto (2000), The Phonology of Portuguese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-823581-X
  • Medina, Flávio (2010), Análise Acústica de Sequências de Fricativas Seguidas de [i] Produzidas por Japoneses Aprendizes de Português Brasileiro (PDF), Anais do IX Encontro do CELSUL Palhoça, SC, Palhoça: Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 38 (1): 107–14, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344
  • Roach, Peter (2004), "British English: Received Pronunciation", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (2): 239–45, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001768
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 117–21, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001628
  • Shosted, Ryan K; Chikovani, Vakhtang (2006), "Standard Georgian" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 36 (2): 255–64, doi:10.1017/S0025100306002659
  • Silva, Thaïs Cristófaro (2003), Fonética e Fonologia do Português: Roteiro de Estudos e Guia de Exercícios (7th ed.), São Paulo: Contexto, ISBN 85-7244-102-6
  • Thelwall, Robin (1990), "Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 20 (2): 37–41, doi:10.1017/S0025100300004266
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