Voiceless retroflex fricative
IPA Number136
Entity (decimal)ʂ
Unicode (hex)U+0282
⠲ (braille pattern dots-256)
⠎ (braille pattern dots-234)
Audio sample
Voiceless retroflex approximant
IPA Number152 402A

The voiceless retroflex sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʂ⟩. Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA letter is formed by adding a rightward-pointing hook to the bottom of ⟨s⟩ (the letter used for the corresponding alveolar consonant). A distinction can be made between laminal, apical, and sub-apical articulations. Only one language, Toda, appears to have more than one voiceless retroflex sibilant, and it distinguishes subapical palatal from apical postalveolar retroflex sibilants; that is, both the tongue articulation and the place of contact on the roof of the mouth are different.

Some scholars also posit the voiceless retroflex approximant distinct from the fricative. The approximant may be represented in the IPA as ⟨ɻ̊⟩.


Schematic mid-sagittal section
Schematic mid-sagittal section

Features of the voiceless retroflex fricative:


In the following transcriptions, diacritics may be used to distinguish between apical [ʂ̺] and laminal [ʂ̻].

The commonality of [ʂ] cross-linguistically is 6% in a phonological analysis of 2155 languages.[1]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz амш [amʂ] 'day' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe пшъашъэ [pʂ̻aːʂ̻a]  'girl' Laminal.
Chinese Mandarin /shí [ʂ̺ɻ̩˧˥] 'stone' Apical. See Mandarin phonology
Emilian-Romagnol Romagnol sé [ˈʂĕ] 'yes' Apical; may be [s̺ʲ] or [ʃ] instead.
Faroese rs [fʊʂ] 'eighty'
bert [pɛɻ̊ʈ] 'only' Devoiced approximant allophone of /r/.[2] See Faroese phonology
Hindustani Hindi कष्ट [ˈkəʂʈ] 'trouble'
Kannada ಕಷ್ಟ [kaʂʈa] 'dificult'
Khanty Most northern dialects шаш [ʂɑʂ] 'knee' Corresponds to a voiceless retroflex affricate /ʈ͡ʂ/ in the southern and eastern dialects.
Lower Sorbian[3][4] glažk [ˈɡläʂk] 'glass'
Malayalam കഷ്ടം [kɐʂʈɐm] 'difficult' Only occurs in loanwords.
Mapudungun[5] trukur [ʈ͡ʂʊ̝ˈkʊʂ] 'fog' Possible allophone of /ʐ/ in post-nuclear position.[5]
Marathi षी [ruʂiː] 'sage'
Nepali षष्ठी [sʌʂʈʰi] 'Shashthi (day)' Allophone of /s/ in neighbourhood of retroflex consonants.
Norwegian norsk [nɔʂk] 'Norwegian' Allophone of the sequence /ɾs/ in many dialects, including Urban East Norwegian. See Norwegian phonology
Oʼodham Cuk-on [tʃʊk ʂɔn] Tucson
Pashto Southern dialect ښودل [ ʂodəl] 'to show'
Polish Standard[6] szum [ʂ̻um]  'rustle' After voiceless consonants it is also represented by ⟨rz⟩. When written so, it can be instead pronounced as the voiceless raised alveolar non-sonorant trill by few speakers.[7] It is transcribed /ʃ/ by most Polish scholars. See Polish phonology
Southeastern Cuyavian dialects[8] schowali [ʂxɔˈväli] 'they hid' Some speakers. It's a result of hypercorrecting the more popular merger of /ʂ/ and /s/ into [s] (see szadzenie).
Suwałki dialect[9]
Romanian Moldavian dialects[10] șură ['ʂurə] 'barn' Apical.[10] See Romanian phonology
Transylvanian dialects[10]
Russian[6] шут [ʂut̪] 'jester' See Russian phonology
Serbo-Croatian[11][12] шал / šal [ʂȃ̠l] 'scarf' Typically transcribed as /ʃ/. See Serbo-Croatian_phonology
Slovak[13] šatka [ˈʂätkä] 'kerchief'
Swedish fors [fɔʂ] 'rapids' Allophone of the sequence /rs/ in many dialects, including Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology
Tamil கஷ்டம் [kɐʂʈɐm] 'difficult' Only occurs in loanwords, often replaced with /s/.
Telugu కష్టం Only occurs in loanwords.
Toda[14] [pɔʂ] '(clan name)' Subapical, contrasts /θ s̪ s̠ ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ/.[15]
Torwali[16] ݜےݜ [ʂeʂ] 'thin rope'
Ubykh [ʂ̺a] 'head' See Ubykh phonology
Upper Sorbian Some dialects[17][18] [example needed] Used in dialects spoken in villages north of Hoyerswerda; corresponds to [ʃ] in standard language.[3] See Upper Sorbian phonology
Vietnamese Southern dialects[19] sữa [ʂɨə˧ˀ˥] 'milk' See Vietnamese phonology
Yi /shy [ʂ̺ɹ̩˧] 'gold'
Yurok[20] segep [ʂɛɣep] 'coyote'
Zapotec Tilquiapan[21] [example needed] Allophone of /ʃ/ before [a] and [u].

See also


  1. ^ Phoible.org. (2018). PHOIBLE Online - Segments. [online] Available at: http://phoible.org/parameters.
  2. ^ Árnason (2011), p. 115.
  3. ^ a b Šewc-Schuster (1984), pp. 40–41
  4. ^ Zygis (2003), pp. 180–181, 190–191.
  5. ^ a b Sadowsky et al. (2013), p. 90.
  6. ^ a b Hamann (2004), p. 65
  7. ^ Karaś, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Frykatywne rż (ř)". Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  8. ^ Taras, Barbara. "Gwary polskie - Gwara regionu". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13.
  9. ^ Karaś, Halina. "Gwary polskie - Szadzenie". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13.
  10. ^ a b c Pop (1938), p. 31.
  11. ^ Kordić (2006), p. 5.
  12. ^ Landau et al. (1999), p. 67.
  13. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 374.
  14. ^ Ladefoged (2005), p. 168.
  15. ^ Krishnamurti (2003), p. 66.
  16. ^ Lunsford (2001), pp. 16–20.
  17. ^ Šewc-Schuster (1984), p. 41.
  18. ^ Zygis (2003), p. 180.
  19. ^ Thompson (1959), pp. 458–461.
  20. ^ "Yurok consonants". Yurok Language Project. UC Berkeley. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  21. ^ Merrill (2008), p. 109.