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Voiced retroflex sibilant

Voiced retroflex sibilant
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IPA number 137
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Kirshenbaum z.
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The voiced retroflex fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʐ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is z`.Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA symbol is formed by adding a rightward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of a zee (the letter used for the corresponding alveolar consonant).

Some scholars transcribe the laminal variant of this sound as /ʒ/, even though it is not palatalized. In such cases the voiced palato-alveolar sibilant is transcribed /ʒʲ/.


Features of the voiced retroflex 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 place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated subapical (with the tip of the tongue curled up), but more generally, it means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical sub-apical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • 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.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


In the following transcriptions, diacritics may be used to distinguish between apical [ʐ̺] and laminal [ʐ̻].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz абжа [ˈabʐa] 'half' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe жъы About this sound [ʐə]  'old'
Chinese Mandarin ròu About this sound [ʐoʊ̯˥˩]  'meat' May also be a retroflex approximant ([ɻ]). See Mandarin phonology
Faroese renn [ʐɛn] 'run'
Italian Marked accents of Emilia-Romagna[1] caso [ˈkäːʐo] 'case' Apical;[1] may be [z̺ʲ] or [ʒ] instead.[1] It corresponds to [z] in standard Italian. See Italian phonology
Marrithiyel Marri Tjevin dialect [wiˈɲaʐu] 'they are laughing' Voicing is non-contrastive.
Pashto Southern dialect تږى‎</font> [ˈtəʐai] 'thirsty' See Pashto phonology
Polish Standard[2] żona About this sound [ˈʐ̠ɔn̪ä]  'wife' Also represented by rz and when written so, it can be instead pronounced as the raised alveolar non-sonorant trill by few speakers.[3] It is transcribed as /ʒ/ by most Polish scholars. See Polish phonology
Southeastern Cuyavian dialects[4] zapłacił [ʐäˈpwät͡ɕiw] 'he paid' Some speakers. It's a result of hypercorrecting the more popular merger of /ʐ/ and /z/ into [z].
Suwałki dialect[5]
Russian[2] кожа About this sound [ˈko̞ʐə]  'skin' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian жут / žut [ʐûːt̪] 'yellow' Laminal. It may be palato-alveolar instead, depending on the dialect. See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Sicilian riccu [ˈʐikːu] 'rich'
Slovak[6] žaba [ˈʐaba] 'frog'
Tilquiapan Zapotec[7] ? [ʐan] 'bottom, beneath'
Torwali[8] ? [ʂuʐ] 'straight'
Ubykh [ʐa] 'firewood' See Ubykh phonology
Vietnamese Southern dialects rô [ʐow] 'diamond' See Vietnamese phonology
Yi ry [ʐʐ̩˧] 'grass'

See also