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Voiceless bilabial fricative

This article is about the consonantal sound. For the Greek letter, see Phi (letter). For the Cyrillic letter, see Ef (Cyrillic).
Voiceless bilabial fricative
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IPA number 126
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Kirshenbaum P
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The voiceless bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɸ. For English-speakers, it is easiest to think of the sound as an f-sound made only with the lips, instead of the upper teeth and lower lip, or a blowing sound.


Features of the voiceless bilabial fricative:

  • 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.
  • Its place of articulation is bilabial, which means it is articulated with both lips.
  • 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.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Ainu フチ [ɸu̜tʃi] 'grandmother'
Angor fi [ɸi] 'body'
Bengali Eastern dialects fol [ɸɔl] 'fruit' Allophone of /f/ in Bangladesh and Tripura, /pʰ/ used in Western dialects.
Ewe[1] éƒá [é ɸá] 'he polished' Contrasts with /f/
Italian Tuscan[2] i capitani [iˌhäɸiˈθäːni] 'the captains' Intervocalic allophone of /p/; it may be an approximant [ɸ˕] instead. See Italian phonology
Itelmen чуфчуф [tʃuɸtʃuɸ] 'rain'
Japanese[3] 腐敗 fuhai [ɸɯhai] 'decay' Allophone of /h/ before /ɯ/. See Japanese phonology
Kaingang fy [ɸɨ] 'seed'
Kwama [kòːɸɛ́] 'basket'
Mao [ʔɑ̄ˈɸɑ́ŋ] 'empty'
Māori whakapapa [ɸakapapa] 'genealogy'
Odoodee pagai [ɸɑɡɑi] 'coconut'
Spanish Andalusian[4] los viejos [lɔh ɸjɛhɔ] 'the old ones' Allophone of /b/ after [h]. See Spanish phonology
Tahitian fī [ʔoːɸiː] 'snake' Allophone of /f/
Turkmen fabrik [ɸabrik] 'factory'

See also



  • Hall, Robert A. Jr. (1944). "Italian phonemes and orthography". Italica (American Association of Teachers of Italian) 21 (2): 72–82. JSTOR 475860. doi:10.2307/475860. 
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.), Blackwell 
  • Okada, Hideo (1991), "Japanese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 21 (2): 94–97, doi:10.1017/S002510030000445X 
  • Pérez, Ramón Morillo-Velarde; Aguilar, Rafael Cano; Jiménez, Antonio Narbona (1998), El Español hablado en Andalucía, ISBN 84-344-8225-8