Voiceless Retroflex Fricative
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Voiceless Retroflex Fricative
Voiceless retroflex fricative
IPA Number136
Entity (decimal)ʂ
Unicode (hex)U+0282
Braille? (braille pattern dots-256)? (braille pattern dots-234)
Audio sample

The voiceless retroflex sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨?⟩. Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA letter is formed by adding a rightward-pointing hook to the bottom of the ess (the letter used for the corresponding alveolar consonant). A distinction can be made between laminal, apical, and sub-apical articulations. Only one language, Toda, appears to have more than one voiceless retroflex sibilant, and it distinguishes subapical palatal from apical postalveolar retroflex sibilants; that is, both the tongue articulation and the place of contact on the roof of the mouth are different.


Features of the voiceless 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 subapical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • 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.
  • 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 [] and laminal [].

The commonality of [?] cross-linguistically is 6% in a phonological analysis of 2155 languages.[1]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz ? [am?] 'day' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe ??? 'girl' Laminal.
Emilian and Romagnol sé ['] 'yes' Apical; may be or instead.
Faroese rs [f] 'eighty'
Hindustani Hindi ? ['k] 'trouble'
Khanty Most northern dialects ??? [] 'knee' Corresponds to a voiceless retroflex affricate // in the southern and eastern dialects.
Lower Sorbian[2][3] gla?k ['?lä?k] 'glass'
Malayalam [ki] 'scarce'
Mandarin ?/shí [] 'stone' Apical. See Mandarin phonology
Mapudungun[4] trukur ['k] 'fog' Possible allophone of /?/ in post-nuclear position.[4]
Marathi [ru?i] 'sage'
Nepali [s?i] 'Shashthi (day)' Allophone of /s/ in neighbourhood of retroflex consonants.
Norwegian Norsk [nk] 'Norwegian' Allophone of the sequence /?s/ in many dialects, including Urban East Norwegian. See Norwegian phonology
O'odham Cuk-?on [tk n] Tucson
Pashto Southern dialect ? [ ?od?l] 'to show'
Polish Standard[5] szum 'rustle' After voiceless consonants it is also represented by ⟨rz⟩. When written so, it can be instead pronounced as the voiceless raised alveolar non-sonorant trill by few speakers.[6] It is transcribed /?/ by most Polish scholars. See Polish phonology
Southeastern Cuyavian dialects[7] schowali [?x?'väli] 'they hid' Some speakers. It's a result of hypercorrecting the more popular merger of /?/ and /s/ into (see szadzenie).
Suwa?ki dialect[8]
Romanian Moldavian dialects[9] ?ur? ['?ur?] 'barn' Apical.[9] See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[9]
Russian[5] ? [?ut?] 'jester' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[10][11] ? / ?al [l] 'scarf' Typically transcribed as /?/. See Serbo-Croatian_phonology
Slovak[12] ?atka ['?ätkä] 'kerchief'
Swedish fors [f] 'rapids' Allophone of the sequence /rs/ in many dialects, including Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology
Tamil [k?m] 'difficult'
Telugu [k?m] 'difficult'
Toda[13] [p] '(clan name)' Subapical
Torwali[14] [?e?] 'thin rope'
Ubykh [a] 'head' See Ubykh phonology
Upper Sorbian Some dialects[15][16] [example needed] Used in dialects spoken in villages north of Hoyerswerda; corresponds to in standard language.[2] See Upper Sorbian phonology
Vietnamese Southern dialects[17] s?a [] 'milk' See Vietnamese phonology
Yi ?/shy [] 'gold'
Yurok[18] segep 'coyote'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[19] [example needed] -- -- Allophone of /?/ before [a] and [u].

See also


  1. ^ Phoible.org. (2018). PHOIBLE Online - Segments. [online] Available at: http://phoible.org/parameters.
  2. ^ a b ?ewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 40-41
  3. ^ Zygis (2003), pp. 180-181, 190-191.
  4. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 90.
  5. ^ a b Hamann (2004), p. 65
  6. ^ Kara?, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Frykatywne r? (?)". Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved .
  7. ^ Taras, Barbara. "Gwary polskie - Gwara regionu". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13.
  8. ^ Kara?, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Szadzenie". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13.
  9. ^ a b c Pop (1938), p. 31.
  10. ^ Kordi? (2006), p. 5.
  11. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  12. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 374.
  13. ^ Ladefoged (2005), p. 168.
  14. ^ Lunsford (2001), pp. 16-20.
  15. ^ ?ewc-Schuster (1984), p. 41.
  16. ^ Zygis (2003), p. 180.
  17. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458-461.
  18. ^ "Yurok consonants". Yurok Language Project. UC Berkeley. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ Merrill (2008), p. 109.


External links

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