Voiceless dental fricative

Voiceless dental fricative
IPA number 130
Entity (decimal) θ
Unicode (hex) U+03B8
Kirshenbaum T
Braille ⠨ (braille pattern dots-46)⠹ (braille pattern dots-1456)
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The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some oral languages. It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in thing. Though rather rare as a phoneme in the world's inventory of languages, it is encountered in some of the most widespread and influential (see below). The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is θ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in post-classical Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta".

The dental non-sibilant fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the upper or lower teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

Among the more than 60 languages with over 10 million speakers, only English, Modern Standard Arabic, Standard European Spanish, Burmese, and Greek have the voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative. Speakers of languages and dialects without the sound sometimes have difficulty producing or distinguishing it from similar sounds, especially if they have had no chance to acquire it in childhood, and typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative (/s/) (as in Indonesian), voiceless dental stop (/t/), or a voiceless labiodental fricative (/f/); known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping,[1] and th-fronting.[2]

Among Turkic languages, Bashkir and Turkmen have voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative.

The sound is known to have disappeared from a number of languages, e.g. from most of the Germanic languages or dialects, where it is retained only in Scots, English, Elfdalian, and Icelandic, but it is alveolar in the latter.[3][4] It has likewise disappeared from many Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and many modern varieties of Arabic.


Features of the voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian thotë [θɔtə] 'says'
Arabic Standard[5] ثَانِيَة  [ˈθaːnija]  'second time/place' Represented by ث. See Arabic phonology.
Amami [θeda] 'sun'
Arapaho yoo3on [jɔːθɔn] 'bee'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic [beθa] 'house' Mostly used in the Tyari, Barwari, Tel Keppe, Batnaya and Alqosh dialects; realized as [t] in other varieties.
Bashkir уҫал [uθɑɫ] 'angry'
Berta [θɪ́ŋɑ̀] 'to eat'
Burmese သုံး/thon: [θòʊ̃] 'three'
Cornish eth [ɛθ] 'eight'
Emiliano-Romagnolo[6] faza [ˈfaːθɐ] 'face'
English thin [θɪn] 'thin' See English phonology
Galician Most dialects[7] cero [ˈθɛɾʊ] 'zero' Merges with /s/ into [s] in Western dialects.[7] See Galician phonology
Greek θάλασσα [ˈθalasa] 'sea' See Modern Greek phonology
Gweno [riθo] 'eye'
Gwich’in th [θaɬ] 'pants'
Hän nihthän [nihθɑn] 'I want'
Harsusi [θəroː] 'two'
Hebrew Iraqi עברית [ʕibˈriːθ] 'Hebrew language' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Yemenite [ʕivˈriːθ]
Hlai Basadung [θsio] 'one'
Italian Tuscan[8] i capitani [iˌhäɸiˈθäːni] 'the captains' Intervocalic allophone of /t/.[8] See Italian phonology and Tuscan gorgia
Kabyle afa [θafaθ] 'light'
Karen Sgaw [θø˧] 'three'
Karuk [jiθa] 'one'
Kickapoo [nɛθwi] 'three'
Kwama [mɑ̄ˈθíl] 'to laugh'
Leonese ceru [θeɾu] 'zero'
Lorediakarkar [θar] 'four'
Malay Selasa [θəlaθa] 'Tuesday' Mostly occurs in Arabic loanwords originally containing this sound, but the writing is not distinguished from the Arabic loanwords with the [s] sound and this sound must be learned separately by the speakers. See Malay phonology.
Massa [faθ] 'five'
Saanich ŦES [teθʔəs] 'eight'
Sardinian Nuorese petha [pɛθa] 'meat'
Shark Bay [θar] 'four'
Shawnee nthwi [nθwɪ] 'three'
Sioux Lakota ? [ktũˈθa] 'four'
Spanish Castilian[9] cazar [käˈθär] 'to hunt' Interdental. See Spanish phonology and Ceceo
Cusco Region
Swahili thamini [θɑmini] 'value' Mostly occurs in Arabic loanwords originally containing this sound.
Tanacross thiit [θiːtʰ] 'embers'
Toda உஇனபஒ [wɨnboθ] 'nine'
Turkmen sekiz [θekið] 'eight'
Tutchone Northern tho [θo] 'pants'
Southern thü [θɨ]
Upland Yuman Havasupai [θerap] 'five'
Hualapai [θarap]
Yavapai [θerapi]
Venetian Eastern dialects çinque [ˈθiŋkwe] 'five' Corresponds to /s/ in other dialects.
Wolaytta shiththa [ɕiθθa] 'flower'
Welsh saith [saiθ] 'seven'
Zhuang saw [θaːu˨˦] 'language'

Voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant

Voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant

The voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant is the only sibilant fricative in some dialects of Andalusian Spanish. It has no official symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet, though its features would be transcribed s̻̪ or s̪̻ (using the ◌̻, the diacritic marking a laminal consonant, and ◌̪, the diacritic marking a dental consonant). It is usually represented by an ad-hoc symbol such as , θˢ̣, or s̟ (advanced diacritic).

Dalbor (1980) describes this sound as follows: "[s̄] is a voiceless, corono-dentoalveolar groove fricative, the so-called s coronal or s plana because of the relatively flat shape of the tongue body.... To this writer, the coronal [s̄], heard throughout Andalusia, should be characterized by such terms as "soft," "fuzzy," or "imprecise," which, as we shall see, brings it quite close to one variety of /θ/ … Canfield has referred, quite correctly, in our opinion, to this [s̄] as "the lisping coronal-dental," and Amado Alonso remarks how close it is to the post-dental [θ̦], suggesting a combined symbol [θˢ̣] to represent it."


Features of the voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Spanish Andalusian[10] casa [ˈkäs̻̪ä] 'house' Present in dialects with ceceo. See Spanish phonology

See also



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