Voiceless palatal fricative
IPA Number138
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)ç
Unicode (hex)U+00E7
Braille⠖ (braille pattern dots-235)⠉ (braille pattern dots-14)
Voiceless palatal approximant
IPA Number153 402A
Entity (decimal)j​̊
Unicode (hex)U+006A U+030A

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, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is C. It is the non-sibilant equivalent of the voiceless alveolo-palatal fricative.

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 symbol ç in French and Portuguese orthography is not a voiceless palatal fricative; the cedilla, instead, changes the usual /k/, the voiceless velar plosive, when c is employed before a or o, to /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 further occurs as an allophone of /x/ (e.g. in German or Greek), or, in other languages, of /h/ in the vicinity of front vowels.

There is also the voiceless post-palatal fricative[2] in some languages, which is articulated slightly farther back compared with the place of articulation of the prototypical voiceless palatal fricative, though not as back as the prototypical voiceless velar fricative. The International Phonetic Alphabet does not have a separate symbol for that sound, though it can be transcribed as ç̠, ç˗ (both symbols denote a retracted ç) or (advanced x). The equivalent X-SAMPA symbols are C_- and x_+, respectively.

Especially in broad transcription, the voiceless post-palatal fricative may be transcribed as a palatalized voiceless velar fricative ( in the IPA, x' or x_j in X-SAMPA).

Some scholars also posit the voiceless palatal approximant distinct from the fricative, found in a few spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is  j̊ , the voiceless homologue of the voiced palatal approximant.

The palatal approximant can in many cases be considered the semivocalic equivalent of the voiceless variant of the close front unrounded vowel [i̥]. The sound is essentially an Australian English ⟨y⟩ (as in year) pronounced strictly without vibration of the vocal cords.

It is found as a phoneme in Jalapa Mazatec and Washo as well as in Kildin Sami.


Voiceless palatal fricative (ç)

Features of the voiceless palatal fricative:



Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Assamese সীমা / xima [ç̠ima] 'limit/border'
Azerbaijani[3] Some dialects çörək [tʃœˈɾæç] 'bread' Allophone of /c/.
Chinese Taizhou dialect [çi] 'to play' Corresponds to alveolo-palatal /ɕ/ in other Wu dialects.
Meixian dialect [çʲɔŋ˦] 'fragrant' Corresponds to palatatized fricative /hj/ in romanised as "hi-" or "hy-" Hakka dialect writing.
Standard / piào [pj̊äʊ̯˥˩] 'ticket' Common allophony of /j/ after aspirated consonants. Normally transcribed as [pʰj]. See Standard Chinese phonology
Danish Standard[4] pjaske [ˈpçæskə] 'splash' May be alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead.[4] Before /j/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing and fortition of /j/.[4] Note, however, that the sequence /tj/ is normally realized as an affricate [t͡ɕ].[5] See Danish phonology
Dutch Standard Northern[6] wiegje [ˈʋiçjə] 'crib' Allophone of /x/ before /j/ for some speakers.[6] See Dutch phonology
English Australian[7] hue [çʉː] 'hue' Phonetic realization of the sequence /hj/.[7][8][9] See Australian English phonology and English phonology
Scouse[10] like [laɪ̯ç] 'like' Allophone of /k/; ranges from palatal to uvular, depending on the preceding vowel.[10] See English phonology
Estonian vihm [viçm] 'rain' Allophone of /h/. See Estonian phonology
Finnish vihko [ʋiçko̞] 'notebook' Allophone of /h/. See Finnish phonology
French Parisian[11] merci [mɛʁˈsi̥ç] 'thank you' The close vowels /i, y, u/ and the mid front /e, ɛ/ at the end of utterances can be devoiced.[11] See French phonology
German nicht [nɪçt] 'not' Traditionally allophone of /x/, or vice versa, but phonemic for some speakers who have both /aːx/ and /aːç/ (< /aʁç/). See Standard German phonology.
Haida xíl [çɪ́l] 'leaf'
Hmong White (Dawb) xya [ça] 'seven' Corresponds to alveolo-palatal /ɕ/ in Dananshan dialect
Green (Njua)
Hungarian[12] 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 çaːnʲ] 'John' (voc.) See Irish phonology
Jalapa Mazatec[13] [example needed] Described as an approximant. Contrasts with plain voiced /j/ and glottalized voiced /ȷ̃/.[13]
Japanese[14] / hito [çi̥to̞] 'person' Allophone of /h/ before /i/ and /j/. See Japanese phonology
Kabyle til [çtil] 'to measure'
Korean / him [çim] 'strength' Allophone of /h/ word-initially before /i/ and /j/. See Korean phonology
Norwegian Urban East[15] kjekk [çe̞kː] 'handsome' Often alveolo-palatal [ɕ] instead; younger speakers in Bergen, Stavanger and Oslo merge it with /ʂ/.[15] See Norwegian phonology
Pashto Ghilji dialect[16] پـښـه [pça] 'foot' See Pashto phonology
Wardak dialect
Romanian Standard vlahi [vlaç] 'valahians' Allophone of /h/ before /i/. Typically transcribed with [hʲ]. See Romanian phonology
Russian Standard[17] твёрдый / tvjordyj [ˈt̪ʋʲɵrd̪ɨ̞ç] 'hard' Possible realization of /j/.[17] See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[18] eich [eç] 'horses' See Scottish Gaelic phonology and orthography
Sicilian ciumi [ˈçumɪ] 'river' Allophone of /ʃ/ and, before atonic syllables, of /t͡ʃ/. This is the natural Sicilian evolution of any Latin word containing a〈-FL-〉nexus. See Sicilian phonology
Spanish Chilean[19] mujer [muˈçe̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels. See Spanish phonology
Turkish[20] hile [çiːʎ̟ɛ] 'trick' Allophone of /h/.[20] See Turkish phonology
Walloon texhe [tɛç] 'to knit'
Welsh hiaith [çaɪ̯θ] 'language' Occurs in words where /h/ comes before /j/ due to h-prothesis of the original word, i.e. /jaɪ̯θ/ iaith 'language' becomes ei hiaith 'her language', resulting in /j/ i/ç/ hi.[21] See Welsh phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Belarusian глухі / hluchí [ɣɫuˈxʲi] 'deaf' Typically transcribed in IPA with . See Belarusian phonology
Dutch Standard Belgian[6] acht [ɑx̟t] 'eight' May be velar [x] instead.[6] See Dutch phonology
Southern accents[6]
Greek[22] ψυχή / psychí [ps̠iˈç̠i] 'soul' See Modern Greek phonology
Limburgish Weert dialect[23] ich [ɪ̞x̟] 'I' Allophone of /x/ before and after front vowels.[23] See Weert dialect phonology
Lithuanian[24][25] chemija Very rare;[26] typically transcribed in IPA with . See Lithuanian phonology
Russian Standard[17] хинди / xindi [ˈx̟indʲɪ] 'Hindi' Typically transcribed in IPA with . See Russian phonology
Spanish[27] mujer [muˈx̟e̞ɾ] 'woman' Allophone of /x/ before front vowels.[27] See Spanish phonology
Ukrainian хід / xid [x̟id̪] 'course' Typically transcribed in IPA with . See Ukrainian phonology
Uzbek[28] xurmo [x̟urmɒ] 'date palm' Weakly fricated; occurs word-initially and pre-consonantally, otherwise it is post-velar [].[28]

Voiceless approximant

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Breton Bothoa dialect [example needed] Contrasts voiceless /j̊/, plain voiced /j/ and nasal voiced /ȷ̃/ approximants.[29]
English Australian [example needed] Allophone of /j/. See Australian English phonology[30][31]
New Zealand [example needed] Allophone of /j/, also can be [ç] instead. See New Zealand English phonology[32][31]
French [example needed] Allophone of /j/. See French phonology[33]
Jalapa Mazatec[13] [example needed] Contrasts voiceless /j̊/, plain voiced /j/ and glottalized voiced /ȷ̃/ approximants.[13]
Japanese [example needed] Colloquial, Allophone of /j/ [34][35][36]
Scottish Gaelic[37] a-muigh [əˈmuj̊] 'outside' (directional) Allophone of /j/ and /ʝ/. See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Washo t'á:Yaŋi [ˈtʼaːj̊aŋi] 'he's hunting' Contrasts voiceless /j̊/ and voiced /j/ approximants.
Koyukon (Denaakk'e) [example needed] Contrasts voiceless /j̊/ and voiced /j/ approximants.

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), pp. 167–168.
  2. ^ Instead of "post-palatal", it can be called "retracted palatal", "backed palatal", "palato-velar", "pre-velar", "advanced velar", "fronted velar" or "front-velar". For simplicity, this article uses only the term "post-palatal".
  3. ^ Damirchizadeh (1972), p. 96.
  4. ^ a b c Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  5. ^ Grønnum (2005), p. 148.
  6. ^ a b c d e Collins & Mees (2003), p. 191.
  7. ^ a b Cox & Fletcher (2017), p. 159.
  8. ^ a b Roach (2009), p. 43.
  9. ^ a b Wells, John C (2009-01-29), "A huge query", John Wells's phonetic blog, retrieved 2016-03-13
  10. ^ a b Watson (2007), p. 353.
  11. ^ a b Fagyal & Moisset (1999).
  12. ^ Siptár & Törkenczy (2007), p. 205.
  13. ^ a b c d Silverman et al. (1995), p. 83.
  14. ^ Okada (1999), p. 118.
  15. ^ a b Kristoffersen (2000), p. 23.
  16. ^ Henderson (1983), p. 595.
  17. ^ a b c Yanushevskaya & Bunčić (2015), p. 223.
  18. ^ Oftedal (1956), p. ?.
  19. ^ Palatal phenomena in Spanish phonology Archived 2021-11-23 at the Wayback Machine Page 113
  20. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  21. ^ Ball & Watkins (1993), pp. 300–301.
  22. ^ Arvaniti (2007), p. 20.
  23. ^ a b Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  24. ^ Mathiassen (1996), pp. 22–23).
  25. ^ Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 36.
  26. ^ Ambrazas et al. (1997), p. 35.
  27. ^ a b Canellada & Madsen (1987), p. 21.
  28. ^ a b Sjoberg (1963), p. 11.
  29. ^ Iosad, Pavel (2013). Representation and variation in substance-free phonology: A case study in Celtic. Universitetet i Tromso.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  30. ^ Cox, Felicity; Palethorpe, Sallyanne (2007). Illustrations of the IPA: Australian English (Cambridge University Press ed.). Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37. pp. 341–350.
  31. ^ a b Moran, Steven; McCloy, Daniel (2019). English sound inventory (UZ). Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  32. ^ Bauer, Laurie; Warren, Paul (2007). Illustrations of the IPA: New Zealand English (Cambridge University Press ed.). Journal of the International Phonetic Association 37. pp. 97–102.
  33. ^ Sten, H (1963). Manuel de Phonetique Francaise. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  34. ^ Bloch (1950), p. 86–125.
  35. ^ Jorden (1963).
  36. ^ Jorden (1952).
  37. ^ Bauer, Michael. "Final devoicing or Why does naoidh sound like Nɯiç?". Akerbeltz. Retrieved 11 December 2016.