Voiceless palatal fricative

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Voiceless palatal fricative
IPA number 138
Entity (decimal) ç
Unicode (hex) U+00E7
Kirshenbaum C
Braille ⠖ (braille pattern dots-235) ⠉ (braille pattern dots-14)

The voiceless palatal fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ç⟩. The symbol ç is the letter c with a cedilla, as used to spell French and Portuguese words such as façade and ação. However, the sound represented by the letter ç in French, Portuguese and English orthography is not a voiceless palatal fricative but /s/, the voiceless alveolar fricative.

Palatal fricatives are relatively rare phonemes, and only 5% of the world's languages have /ç/ as a phoneme.[1] The sound occurs, however, as an allophone of /x/ in German, or, in other languages, of /h/ in the vicinity of front vowels.

There is also a voiceless post-palatal fricative (also called pre-velar, fronted velar etc.) in some languages.


Features of the voiceless palatal 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 palatal, which means it is articulated with the middle or back part of the tongue raised to the hard palate.
  • 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
Azerbaijani[2] Some dialects çörək [tʃœˈɾæç] 'bread' Allophone of /c/
Berber Kabyle til [çtil] 'to measure'
Danish Standard[3] pjaske [ˈpçæsɡ̊ə] 'splash' May be alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead.[3] Before /j/, aspiration in /pʰ, tˢ, kʰ/ is realized as devoicing and fortition of /j/.[3] Note, however, that the sequence /tˢj/ is normally realized as an affricate [t͡ɕ].[4] See Danish phonology
Dutch Southern echt [ɛx̟t̪] 'real' Post-palatal; not all dialects. See Hard and soft G in Dutch and Dutch phonology
English British[5][6] hue About this sound [çuː]  'hue' Allophone of /hj/. See English phonology
Scouse[7] like [laɪ̯ç] 'like' Allophone of /k/; ranges from palatal to uvular, depending on the preceding vowel.[7] See English phonology
Finnish vihko [ˈʋiçko̞] 'notebook' Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
German nicht About this sound [nɪçt]  'not' Allophone of /x/. See German phonology
Greek[8] ψυχή About this sound [ps̠iˈç̠i]  'soul' Post-palatal.[8] See Modern Greek phonology
Haida xíl [çɪ́l] 'leaf'
Hungarian[9] kapj [ˈkɒpç] 'get' (imperative) Allophone of /j/ between a voiceless obstruent and a word boundary. See Hungarian phonology
Icelandic hérna [ˈçɛrtn̥a] 'here' See Icelandic phonology
Irish a Sheáin [ə çaːnʲ] 'John' (voc.) See Irish phonology
Japanese[10] /hito [çi̥to̞] 'person' Allophone of /h/ before /i/ and /j/. See Japanese phonology
Korean /him [çim] 'strength' Allophone of /h/ word-initially before /i/ and /j/. See Korean phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[11] ich [e̠ç̠] 'I' Post-palatal; allophone of /x/ before and after front vowels.[11]
Norwegian kjekk [çek] 'handsome' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto Ghilji dialect[12] پښه‎ [pça] 'foot'
Wardak dialect
Portuguese Some Brazilian speakers risonha [çiˈzõ̞j̃ɐ] 'giggly', 'laughterful' (f.) Allophone of /ʁ/, particularly before [i] or [ɪ] in onset context. See Portuguese phonology
Romanian Muntenian dialects[13] fir [çir] 'thread' Allophone of /f/ before /i/.[13] Realized as [f] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[14] eich [eç] 'horses'
Spanish Chilean[15] mujer [muˈçe̞r] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Uzbek[16] [example needed] Post-palatal;[16] weakly fricated.[16] Occurs word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is post-velar.[16]
Walloon texhe [tɛç] 'to knit'

See also


  1. Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:167–68)
  2. Damirchizadeh (1972:96)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Basbøll (2005:65–66)
  4. Grønnum (2005:148)
  5. Roach (2009:43)
  6. Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2010-12-28<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Watson (2007), p. 353.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Arvaniti (2007), p. 20.
  9. Siptár & Törkenczy (2007:205)
  10. Okada (1991:95)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  12. Henderson (1983), p. 595.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Pop (1938), p. 30.
  14. Oftedal (1956:?)
  15. Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Page 113
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Sjoberg (1963), pp. 11.


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