Voiced dental fricative
IPA Number131
Entity (decimal)ð
Unicode (hex)U+00F0
Audio sample
Voiced dental approximant
Audio sample

The voiced dental fricative is a consonant sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English-speakers as the th sound in father. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is eth, or [ð] and was taken from the Old English and Icelandic letter eth, which could stand for either a voiced or unvoiced (inter)dental non-sibilant fricative. Such fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth (as in Received Pronunciation), and not just against the back of the upper teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

The letter ⟨ð⟩ is sometimes used to represent the dental approximant, a similar sound, which no language is known to contrast with a dental non-sibilant fricative,[1] but the approximant is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic: ⟨ð̞⟩. Very rarely used variant transcriptions of the dental approximant include ⟨ʋ̠⟩ (retracted [ʋ]), ⟨ɹ̟⟩ (advanced [ɹ]) and ⟨ɹ̪⟩ (dentalised [ɹ]). It has been proposed that either a turned ⟨ð[2] or reversed ð[3] be used as a dedicated symbol for the dental approximant, but despite occasional usage, this has not gained general acceptance.

The fricative and its unvoiced counterpart are rare phonemes. Almost all languages of Europe and Asia, such as German, French, Persian, Japanese, and Mandarin, lack the sound. Native speakers of languages without the sound often have difficulty enunciating or distinguishing it, and they replace it with a voiced alveolar sibilant [z], a voiced dental stop or voiced alveolar stop [d], or a voiced labiodental fricative [v]; known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting. As for Europe, there seems to be a great arc where the sound (and/or its unvoiced variant) is present. Most of Mainland Europe lacks the sound. However, some "periphery" languages as Gascon, Welsh, English, Icelandic, Elfdalian, Kven, Northern Sami, Inari Sami, Skolt Sami, Ume Sami, Mari, Greek, Albanian, Sardinian, some dialects of Basque and most speakers of Spanish have the sound in their consonant inventories, as phonemes or allophones.

Within Turkic languages, Bashkir and Turkmen have both voiced and voiceless dental non-sibilant fricatives among their consonants. Among Semitic languages, they are used in Modern Standard Arabic, albeit not by all speakers of modern Arabic dialects, and in some dialects of Hebrew and Assyrian.


Features of the voiced dental non-sibilant fricative:


In the following transcriptions, the undertack diacritic may be used to indicate an approximant [ð̞].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian idhull [iðuɫ] 'idol'
Aleut Atkan dialect dax̂ [ðɑχ] 'eye'
Arabic Modern Standard[4] ذهب [ˈðahab] 'gold' See Arabic phonology
Tunisian See Tunisian Arabic phonology
Aromanian[5] zală [ˈðalə] 'butter whey' Corresponds to [z] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Assyrian ܘܪܕܐ werda [wεrð̞a] 'flower' Common in the Tyari, Barwari, and Western dialects.
Corresponds to [d] in other varieties.
Asturian Some dialects fazer [fäˈðeɾ] 'to do' Alternative realization of etymological ⟨z⟩. Can also be realized as [θ].
Bashkir ҡаҙ/qað About this sound[qɑð]  'goose'
Basque[6] adar [að̞ar] 'horn' Allophone of /d/
Berta [fɛ̀ːðɑ̀nɑ́] 'to sweep'
Burmese[7] အညာသား [ʔəɲàd̪͡ðá] 'inlander' Commonly realized as an affricate [d̪͡ð].[8]
Catalan[9] cada [ˈkɑðɐ] 'each' Fricative or approximant. Allophone of /d/. See Catalan phonology
Cree Woods Cree (th-dialect) /nitha [niða] 'I' Reflex of Proto-Algonguian *r. Shares features of a sonorant.
Dahalo[10] [example needed] Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /d̪/, and may be simply a plosive [] instead.[10]
Elfdalian baiða [ˈbaɪða] 'wait'
Emilian Bolognese żänt [ðæ̃:t] 'people'
English this About this sound[ðɪs] 'this' See English phonology
Extremaduran ḥazel [häðel] 'to do' Realization of etymological 'z'. Can also be realized as [θ]
Fijian ciwa [ðiwa] 'nine'
Galician Some dialects[11] fazer [fɐˈðeɾ] 'to do' Alternative realization of etymological ⟨z⟩. Can also be realized as [θ, z, z̺].
German Austrian[12] leider [ˈlaɛ̯ða] 'unfortunately' Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Standard German phonology
Greek δάφνη/dáfni [ˈðafni] 'laurel' See Modern Greek phonology
Gwich’in niidhàn [niːðân] 'you want'
Hän ë̀dhä̀ [ə̂ðɑ̂] 'hide'
Harsusi [ðebeːr] 'bee'
Hebrew Iraqi אדוני About this sound[ʔaðoˈnaj]  'my lord' Commonly pronounced [d]. See Modern Hebrew phonology
Judeo-Spanish Many dialects קריאדֿור‎ / kriador [kɾiaˈðor] 'creator' Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in many dialects.
Kabyle uḇ [ðuβ] 'to be exhausted'
Kagayanen[13] kalag [kað̞aɡ] 'spirit'
Kurdish An approximant; postvocalic allophone of /d/. See Kurdish phonology.
Malay Malaysian Malay azan [a.ðan] 'azan' Only in Arabic loanwords; usually replaced with /z/. See Malay phonology
Mari Eastern dialect шодо [ʃoðo] 'lung'
Norman Jèrriais the [með] 'mother'
Northern Sami dieđa [d̥ieðɑ] 'science'
Norwegian Meldal dialect[14] i [ð̩ʲ˕ː] 'in' Syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant[14] corresponding to /iː/ in other dialects. See Norwegian phonology
Occitan Gascon que divi [ke ˈð̞iwi] 'what I should' Allophone of /d/. See Occitan phonology
Portuguese European[15] nada [ˈn̪äðɐ] 'nothing' Northern and central dialects. Allophone of /d/, mainly after an oral vowel.[16] See Portuguese phonology
Sardinian nidu About this sound[ˈnið̞u]  'nest' Allophone of /d/
Scottish Gaelic iri [ˈmaːðə] 'Mary' Some dialects (Leòdhas and Barraigh); otherwise realized as [ɾʲ][17]
Sioux Lakota zapta [ˈðaptã] 'five' Sometimes with [z]
Spanish Most dialects[18] dedo [ˈd̪e̞ð̞o̞] 'finger' Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[19] Allophone of /d/. See Spanish phonology
Swahili dhambi [ðɑmbi] 'sin' Mostly occurs in Arabic loanwords originally containing this sound.
Swedish Central Standard[20] bada [ˈbɑːð̞ä] 'to take a bath' An approximant;[20] allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Some dialects[14][better source needed] i [ð̩ʲ˕ː] 'in' A syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant[14][better source needed] corresponding to /iː/ in Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology
Syriac Western Neo-Aramaic ܐܚܕ [aħːeð] 'to take'
Tamil ஒன்பது [wʌnbʌðɯ] 'nine' See Tamil phonology
Tanacross dhet [ðet] 'liver'
Turkmen gaz [ɡäːð] 'goose'
Tutchone Northern edhó [eðǒ] 'hide'
Southern adhǜ [aðɨ̂]
Venetian mezorno [meˈðorno] 'midday'
Welsh bardd [barð] 'bard' See Welsh phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[21] [example needed] Allophone of /d/

Danish [ð] is actually a velarized alveolar approximant.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ Olson et al. (2010:210)
  2. ^ Kenneth S. Olson, Jeff Mielke, Josephine Sanicas-Daguman, Carol Jean Pebley & Hugh J. Paterson III, 'The phonetic status of the (inter)dental approximant', Journal of the International Phonetic Association, Vol. 40, No. 2 (August 2010), pp. 201–211
  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. ^ Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990:37)
  5. ^ Pop (1938), p. 30.
  6. ^ Hualde (1991:99–100)
  7. ^ Watkins (2001:291–292)
  8. ^ Watkins (2001:292)
  9. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:55)
  10. ^ a b Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  11. ^ "Atlas Lingüístico Gallego (ALGa) | Instituto da Lingua Galega - ILG". ilg.usc.es. Retrieved 2019-11-25.
  12. ^ Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  13. ^ Olson et al. (2010:206–207)
  14. ^ a b c d Vanvik (1979:14)
  15. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  16. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  17. ^ http://doug5181.wixsite.com/sgdsmaps/blank-wlxn6. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ a b Engstrand (2004:167)
  21. ^ Merrill (2008:109)
  22. ^ Grønnum (2003:121)
  23. ^ Basbøll (2005:59, 63)