Voiced bilabial fricative
IPA Number127
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)β
Unicode (hex)U+03B2
Braille⠨ (braille pattern dots-46)⠃ (braille pattern dots-12)
Voiced bilabial approximant
Audio sample

The voiced bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨β⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B. The official symbol ⟨β⟩ is the Greek letter beta.

This letter is also often used to represent the bilabial approximant, though that is more precisely written with a lowering diacritic, that is ⟨β̞⟩. That sound may also be transcribed as an advanced labiodental approximantʋ̟⟩, in which case the diacritic is again frequently omitted, since no contrast is likely.[1][2] It has been proposed that either a turned ⟨β⟩ (approximately 𐅸) or reversed ⟨β⟩ be used as a dedicated symbol for the bilabial approximant, but despite occasional usage this has not gained general acceptance.[3]

It is extremely rare for a language to make a phonemic contrast between the voiced bilabial fricative and the bilabial approximant. The Mapos Buang language of New Guinea contains this contrast. Its bilabial approximant is analyzed as filling a phonological gap in the labiovelar series of the consonant system rather than the bilabial series.[4] Proto-Germanic[5] and Proto-Italic[6] are also reconstructed as having had this contrast, albeit with [β] being an allophone for another consonant in both cases. In Bashkir language, it is an intervocal allophone of /b/, and it is contrastive with /w/: балабыҙ [bɑɫɑˈβɯð] 'our child', балауыҙ [bɑɫɑˈwɯð] 'wax'.

The bilabial fricative is diachronically unstable (likely to be considerably varied between dialects of a language that makes use of it) and is likely to shift to [v].[7]

The sound is not the primary realization of any sound in English dialects except for Chicano English, but it can be produced by approximating the normal English [v] between the lips; it can also sometimes occur as an allophone of /v/ after bilabial consonants.


Features of the voiced bilabial fricative:


Voiced bilabial fricative

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Akei [βati] 'four'
Alekano hanuva [hɑnɯβɑ] 'nothing'
Angor fufung [ɸuβuŋ] 'horn'
Bengali Eastern dialects ভিসা [βisa] 'Visa' Allophone of /v/ in Bangladesh and Tripura; /bʱ/ used in Western dialects.
Berta [βɑ̀lɑ̀ːziʔ] 'no'
Catalan[8] abans [əˈβans] 'before' Approximant or fricative. Allophone of /b/. Mainly found in betacist (/b/ and /v/ merging) dialects. See Catalan phonology
Chinese dialects Fuzhou[9]
chĕ̤ báik
[t͡sœ˥˧βaiʔ˨˦] 'eighth day of the month' Allophone of /p/ and /pʰ/ in certain intervocalic positions.[9]
Suburban Shanghainese 碗盞
ve tse
[βe̝˧˧˦tsɛ̝˥] 'bowl' Usually [ɦu] or [u] in other Wu dialects[10]
Comorian upvendza [uβendza] 'to love' Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
Coptic Bohairic ⲧⲱⲃⲓ [ˈdoːβi] 'brick' Shifted to [w] with a syllable coda allophone of [b] in a later stage.
Sahidic ⲧⲱⲱⲃⲉ [ˈtoːβə]
Dahalo[11] [koːβo] 'to want' Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /b/, and may be simply a plosive [b] instead.[11]
English Some dialects upvote [ˈʌpˌβoʊt] 'upvote' Less-common allophone of /v/ after [p], [b], or [m] (the more-common alteration being the shifting of the earlier consonant to [p̪], [b̪], or [ɱ], respectively, although [p̪v]/[b̪v]/[ɱv] exist in free variation with [pβ]/[bβ]/[mβ]).
Chicano very [βɛɹi] 'very' May be realized as [b] instead.
Ewe[12] Eʋe [èβe] 'Ewe' Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
Fijian ivava [iβa:βa:] 'shoe'
German[13][14] aber [ˈaːβɐ] 'but' Intervocalic and pre-lateral allophone of /b/ in casual speech.[13][14] See Standard German phonology
Hopi tsivot [tsi:βot] 'five'
Japanese[15] 神戸/be [ko̞ːβe̞] 'Kobe' Allophone of /b/ only in fast speech between vowels. See Japanese phonology
Kabyle bri [βri] 'to cut'
Kinyarwanda abana [aβa:na] 'children'
Korean /chuhu/ [ˈt͡ɕʰuβʷu] 'later' Intervocalic allophone of /h/ before /u/ and /w/. See Korean phonology
Luhya Wanga Dialect Nabongo [naβonɡo] 'title for a king'
Mapos Buang[4] venġévsën [βəˈɴɛβt͡ʃen] 'prayer' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as ⟨v⟩, and the approximant as ⟨w⟩.[4]
Nepali भा [sʌβä] 'Meeting' Allophone of /bʱ/. See Nepali phonology
Portuguese European[16][17] bado [ˈsaβɐðu] 'Saturday' Allophone of /b/. See Portuguese phonology
Ripuarian Colognian[citation needed] wing [βɪŋ] 'wine' Allophone of syllable-initial /v/ for some speakers; can be [ʋ ~ w ~ ɰ] instead.[citation needed] See Colognian phonology
Sardinian Logudorese[18] paba [ˈpäːβä] 'pope' Intervocalic allophone of /b/ as well as word-initial /p/ when the preceding word ends with a vowel and there is no pause between the words.[18]
Turkish[19] vücut [βy̠ˈd͡ʒut̪] 'body' Allophone of /v/ before and after rounded vowels.[19] See Turkish phonology
Turkmen watan [βatan] 'country'
Venda[20] davha /daβa/ 'work party held by one who wants to have the land ploughed or cultivated' Contrasts with /v/ and /w/
Zapotec Tilquiapan[21] [example needed] Allophone of /b/

Bilabial approximant

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Amharic[22] አበባ [aβ̞əβ̞a] 'flower' Allophone of /b/ medially between sonorants.[22]
Asturian abanicu [aβ̞aˈniku] 'swing' Allophone of /b/
Basque[23] alaba [alaβ̞a] 'daughter' Allophone of /b/
Catalan[8] abans [əˈβ̞ans] 'before' Approximant or fricative. Allophone of /b/. Mainly found in betacist (/b/ and /v/ merging) dialects. See Catalan phonology
Japanese /watashi [β̞ätäɕi] 'me' Usually represented phonemically as /w/.[24] See Japanese phonology
Kyrgyz ооба [оːˈβ̞a] 'yes' Allophone of /b/ medially between vowels.
Limburgish[25][26] wèlle [ˈβ̞ɛ̝lə] 'to want' The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Lombard el nava via [el ˈnaβ̞a ˈβ̞ia] 'he was going away' Regular pronunciation of /v/ when intervocalic. Used also as an allophone for other positions.
Mapos Buang[4] wabeenġ [β̞aˈᵐbɛːɴ] 'kind of yam' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as {v}, and the approximant as {w}.[4]
Occitan Gascon lavetz [laˈβ̞ets] 'then' Allophone of /b/
Ripuarian Kerkrade[27] sjwaam [ʃβ̞aːm] 'smoke' Weakly rounded; contrasts with /v/.[27] See Kerkrade dialect phonology
Spanish[28] lava [ˈläβ̞ä] 'lava' Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[29] Allophone of /b/. See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[30] aber [ˈɑːβ̞eɾ] 'problem' Allophone of /b/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Ukrainian[31] вона [β̞oˈnɑ] 'she' An approximant; the most common prevocalic realization of /w/. Can vary with labiodental [ʋ].[31] See Ukrainian phonology

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter (1968). A Phonetic Study of West African Languages: An Auditory-instrumental Survey. p. 26.
  2. ^ Joyce Thambole Mogatse Mathangwane (1996). Phonetics and Phonology of Ikalanga: A Diachronic and Synchronic Study (PhD thesis). Berkeley: University of California. p. 79.
  3. ^ Ball, Martin J.; Howard, Sara J.; Miller, Kirk (2018). "Revisions to the extIPA chart". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 48 (2): 155–164. doi:10.1017/S0025100317000147. S2CID 151863976.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mose Lung Rambok; Hooley, Bruce (2010). Central Buang‒English Dictionary (PDF). Summer Institute of Linguistics Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 978-9980-0-3589-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-11-10.
  5. ^ Fulk, R.D. (2018). A Comparative Grammar of the Early Germanic Languages. Studies in Germanic Linguistics. Vol. 3. Amsterdam: Benjamins. p. 102. doi:10.1075/sigl.3. ISBN 978 90 272 6312 4.
  6. ^ Silvestri, Domenico (1998). "The Italic Languages". In Ramat, Anna Giacalone; Ramat, Paolo (eds.). The Indo-European languages. Taylor & Francis Group. pp. 322–344.
  7. ^ Picard (1987:364), citing Pope (1966:92)
  8. ^ a b Wheeler (2005:10)
  9. ^ a b Zhuqing (2002:?)
  10. ^ Zhao, Yuan Ren (1928). 現代吳語的研究 "Study on Modern Wu Chinese". 商務印書館. ISBN 9787100086202.
  11. ^ a b Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  12. ^ Ladefoged (2005:156)
  13. ^ a b Krech et al. (2009:108)
  14. ^ a b Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2013.. This source mentions only intervocalic [β].
  15. ^ Okada (1999:118)
  16. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  17. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  18. ^ a b (Italian) http://www.antoninurubattu.it/rubattu/grammatica-sarda-italiano-sardo.html Archived 2015-01-01 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  20. ^ Madiba, M; Nkomo, D (2010-12-13). "The Tshivenda–English Thalusamaipfi/Dictionary as a Product of South African Lexicographic Processes". Lexikos. 20 (1). doi:10.4314/lex.v20i1.62719. hdl:11427/8892. ISSN 1684-4904.
  21. ^ Merrill (2008:109)
  22. ^ a b Hayward & Hayward (1999:48)
  23. ^ Hualde (1991:99–100)
  24. ^ Maekawa (2020).
  25. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:155)
  26. ^ Peters (2006:117)
  27. ^ a b Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997:17)
  28. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:257)
  29. ^ Phonetic studies such as Quilis (1981) have found that Spanish voiced stops may surface as spirants with various degrees of constriction. These allophones are not limited to regular fricative articulations, but range from articulations that involve a near complete oral closure to articulations involving a degree of aperture quite close to vocalization
  30. ^ Engstrand (2004:167)
  31. ^ a b Žovtobrjux & Kulyk (1965:121–122)


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