Voiceless uvular fricative

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Voiceless uvular fricative
IPA Number142
Entity (decimal)χ
Unicode (hex)U+03C7
Braille⠨ (braille pattern dots-46)⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)
Audio sample

The voiceless uvular fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨χ⟩, the Greek chi. The sound is represented by ⟨x̣⟩ (ex with underdot) in Americanist phonetic notation. It is sometimes transcribed with ⟨x⟩ (or ⟨r⟩, if rhotic) in broad transcription.

There is also a voiceless uvular fricative trill (a simultaneous [χ] and [ʀ̥]) in some languages, e.g. Hebrew and Wolof as well as in the northern and central varieties of European Spanish.[1][2][3][4] It can be transcribed as ⟨ʀ̝̊⟩ (a devoiced and raised uvular trill) in IPA. It is found as either the voiceless counterpart of [ɣ] or the sole dorsal fricative in Northern Standard Dutch and regional dialects and languages of the Netherlands (Dutch Low Saxon and West Frisian) spoken above the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Waal (sometimes termed the Rotterdam–Nijmegen Line). A plain fricative that is articulated slightly further front, as either medio-velar or post-palatal is typical of dialects spoken south of the rivers (mainly Brabantian and Limburgish), including Belgian Standard Dutch. In those dialects, the voiceless uvular fricative trill is one of the possible realizations of the phoneme /r/.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] In fact, more languages claimed to have a voiceless uvular fricative may actually have a fricative trill. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) note that there is "a complication in the case of uvular fricatives in that the shape of the vocal tract may be such that the uvula vibrates."[2]

The frication in the fricative trill variant sometimes occurs at the middle or the back of the soft palate (termed velar or mediovelar and post-velar, respectively), rather than the uvula itself. This is the case in Northern Standard Dutch as well as some varieties of Arabic, Limburgish and Madrid Spanish. It may thus be appropriate to call those variants voiceless (post)velar-uvular fricative trill as the trill component is always uvular (velar trills are not physically possible). The corresponding IPA symbol is ⟨ʀ̝̊˖⟩ (a devoiced, raised and advanced uvular trill, where the "advanced" diacritic applies only to the fricative portion of the sound). Thus, in cases where a dialectal variation between voiceless uvular and velar fricatives is claimed the main difference between the two may be the trilling of the uvula as frication can be velar in both cases - compare Northern Dutch acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' (with a postvelar-uvular fricative trill) with Southern Dutch [ɑxt] or [ɑx̟t], which features a non-trilled fricative articulated at the middle or front of the soft palate.[3][4][5][9][10][12]

For a voiceless pre-uvular fricative (also called post-velar), see voiceless velar fricative.


Features of the voiceless uvular 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 uvular, which means it is articulated with the back of the tongue (the dorsum) at the uvula.
  • 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.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans[13][14] goed [χut] 'good' Varies between a fricative and a fricative trill when word-initial.[13] See Afrikaans phonology
Arabic[12] خضراء [χadˤraːʔ] 'green' (f.) Fricative trill with velar frication.[12] May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[15] խոտ About this sound[χot]  ‘grass’
Chuvash хăна [χə'na] 'guest'
Danish Standard[16] pres [ˈpχæs] 'pressure' Before /r/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing of /r/.[17] Usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʁ⟩. See Danish phonology.
Dutch Standard Northern[5][6] acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' Fricative trill with post-velar frication.[5] May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See Dutch phonology
Belgian[7][8] brood [bʀ̝̊oːt] 'bread' Voiced when following a vowel.[18] Realization of /r/ varies considerably among dialects. See Dutch phonology
English Scouse[19] clock [kl̥ɒχ] 'clock' Possible word-final realization of /k/; varies between a fricative and a fricative trill.[19]
Welsh[20][21] Amlwch [ˈamlʊχ] 'Amlwch' Occurs only in loanwords from Welsh;[20] usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See English phonology
White South African[14][22] gogga [ˈχɒχə] 'insect' Less commonly velar [x], occurs only in loanwords from Afrikaans and Khoisan.[14] Usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See English phonology
German Standard[23] Dach [daχ] 'roof' Appears only after certain back vowels. See Standard German phonology
Chemnitz dialect[24] Rock [χɔkʰ] 'skirt' In free variation with [ʁ̞], [ʁ], [ʀ̥] and [q].[24] Does not occur in coda.[24]
Lower Rhine[25] Wirte [ˈvɪχtə] 'hosts' In free variation with [ɐ] between a vowel and a voiceless coronal consonant.
Hebrew [1] מֶלֶך [ˈme̞.le̞χ] 'king' Usually a fricative trill.[1] See Modern Hebrew phonology
Limburgish Some dialects[9][10][11] waor [β̞ɒ̝ːʀ̝̊] 'was' Allophone of /r/ that has been variously described as occurring in the syllable coda[9][10] and word-final.[11] May be only partially devoiced; frication may be uvular or post-velar.[9][10] The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Luxembourgish[26] Zuch [t͡suχ] 'train' See Luxembourgish phonology
Low German Dutch Low Saxon[5][6] acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' Fricative trill with post-velar frication;[5] voiceless counterpart of /ɣ/. May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩.
Portuguese General Brazilian[27] marrom [mäˈχõː] 'brown' (noun) Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/. See Portuguese phonology
Spanish European[3][4] ojo About this sound[ˈo̞ʀ̝̊o̞]  'eye' Fricative trill; frication is velar in Madrid. Occurs in northern and central varieties.[3][4] Most often, it is transcribed with ⟨x⟩ in IPA. See Spanish phonology
Ponce dialect[28] perro [ˈpe̞χo̞] 'dog' This and [ʀ̥] are the primary realizations of /r/ in this dialect.[28] See Spanish phonology
Tlingit -dá [dáχ] 'from, out of' Occurs plain, labialised, ejective, and labialised ejective.
Welsh chwech [χweːχ] 'six' See Welsh phonology
West Frisian[5][6] berch [bɛrʀ̝̊˖] 'mountain' Fricative trill with post-velar frication;[5] voiceless counterpart of /ɣ/. Never occurs in word-initial positions. May be transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See West Frisian phonology
Wolof[2] [example needed] Fricative trill.[2]
Yiddish[13] איך / ikh [iχ] 'I' See Yiddish phonology

See also


  1. ^ a b c Laufer (1999), p. 98.
  2. ^ a b c d Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 167.
  3. ^ a b c d "Castilian Spanish - Madrid by Klaus Kohler".
  4. ^ a b c d Lyons (1981), p. 76.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Collins & Mees (2003:191). Goeman & Van de Velde (2001) have also found that frication is much more commonly in the velar region in dialects and language varieties with "hard G", though they do not distinguish between trilled and non-trilled fricatives in their study.
  6. ^ a b c d Gussenhoven (1999), p. 74.
  7. ^ a b Tops (2009), pp. 25, 30–32, 63, 80–88, 97–100, 105, 118, 124–127, 134–135, 137–138, 140–141.
  8. ^ a b Verhoeven (1994:?), cited in Tops (2009:22, 83)
  9. ^ a b c d e Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  10. ^ a b c d e Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 156.
  11. ^ a b c Verhoeven (2007), p. 220.
  12. ^ a b c Thelwall & Sa'Addedin (1999), pp. 51, 53.
  13. ^ a b c "John Wells's phonetic blog: velar or uvular?". 5 December 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Bowerman (2004:939): "White South African English is one of very few varieties to have a velar fricative phoneme /x/ (see Lass (2002:120)), but this is only in words borrowed from Afrikaans (...) and Khoisan (...). Many speakers use the Afrikaans uvular fricative [χ] rather than the velar."
  15. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 18.
  16. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 62, 65–66.
  17. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  18. ^ Tops (2009), p. 83.
  19. ^ a b Wells (1982), pp. 372–373.
  20. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 389.
  21. ^ Tench (1990), p. 132.
  22. ^ Wells (1982), p. 619.
  23. ^ Hall (1993:100), footnote 7, citing Kohler (1990)
  24. ^ a b c Khan & Weise (2013), p. 235.
  25. ^ Hall (1993), p. 89.
  26. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 68.
  27. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), pp. 5–6.
  28. ^ a b "ProQuest Document View - The Spanish of Ponce, Puerto Rico: A phonetic, phonological, and intonational analysis".


External links