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Voiceless pharyngeal fricative

Voiceless pharyngeal fricative
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IPA number 144
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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 (which resembles the Cyrillic lowercase letter Tshe), ħ. Epiglottals and epiglotto-pharyngeals are often mistakenly taken to be pharyngeal. In academic writings, it is often distinguished by writing a diacritical point beneath the letter, as in or in .


Features of the voiceless pharyngeal 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 pharyngeal, which means it is articulated with the tongue root against the back of the throat (the pharynx).
  • 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.


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]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abaza хIахъвы [ħaqʷǝ] 'stone'
Abkhaz ҳара [ħaˈra] 'we' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe тхьэ [tħa] 'god'
Agul ? [muħ] 'barn'
Arabic Standard[2] حال About this sound [ħaːl]  'situation' See Arabic phonology
Archi хIал [ħaːl] 'good'
Avar xIебецI [ħeˈbetsʼ] 'earwax'
Berber Kabyle aeffaf [aħəffaf] 'hairdresser'
Chechen ач / About this sound [ħatʃ]  'plum'
Finnish hti [tæħti] 'star' Allophone of /h/ in complementary distribution.
Galician[3] Some dialects ghato [ˈħato] 'cat' Corresponds to /ɡ/ in other dialects. See gheada
Hebrew חַשְׁמַל About this sound [ħaʃˈmal]  'electricity' Oriental dialects only. See Modern Hebrew phonology
Kabardian кхъохь About this sound [q͡χʷaħ]  'ship'
Kurdish Some speakers hol About this sound [ħol]  'environment' Corresponds to /h/ in most Kurdish dialects
Maltese Standard wieħed [wiħːet] 'one'
Nuu-chah-nulth ʔaap-ii [ʔaːpˈħiː] 'friendly'
Portuguese Fluminense marca [ˈmaħkɐ] 'mark', 'trait' In free variation with [x], [χ], [[[voiced uvular fricative#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect.ʁ]]
~ [[uvular trill#REDIRECTmw:Help:Magic words#Other
This page is a soft redirect.ʀ]]
] and [h] before voiceless consonants.[citation needed]
General Brazilian rocha [ˈħɔɕɐ] 'rock' Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/.[citation needed] See Portuguese phonology
Sioux Nakota [haħdanahã] 'yesterday'
Somali xood About this sound [ħoːd]  'cane' See Somali phonology
Syriac Chaldean Neo-Aramaic ܡܫܝܼܚܵܐ [mʃiːħa] 'christ' Corresponds with [x] in other Syriac varieties such as Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.
Ukrainian[4] нігті [ˈnʲiħtʲi] 'fingernails' Allophone of /ʕ/ (which may be transcribed /ɦ/) before voiceless consonants;[4] can be fronted to [x] in some "weak positions".[4] See Ukrainian phonology

See also