Voiceless uvular fricative
IPA Number142
Audio sample
Entity (decimal)χ
Unicode (hex)U+03C7
Braille⠨ (braille pattern dots-46)⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)

The voiceless uvular fricative is a type of consonantal sound that is used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is χ, the Greek chi. The sound is represented by ⟨x̣⟩ (ex with underdot) in Americanist phonetic notation. It is sometimes transcribed with x (or r, if rhotic) in broad transcription.

Most languages claimed to have a voiceless uvular fricative may actually have a voiceless uvular fricative trill (a simultaneous [χ] and [ʀ̥]). Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) note that there is "a complication in the case of uvular fricatives in that the shape of the vocal tract may be such that the uvula vibrates."

Although they are not normally differentiated in study, languages in which they have been (Hebrew, Wolof, as well as the northern and central varieties of European Spanish) have been found to specifically possess the fricative trill.[1][2][3][4] It can be transcribed as ʀ̝̊ (a devoiced and raised uvular trill) in IPA. It is found as either the fortis counterpart of /ɣ/ (which itself is voiceless at least in Northern Standard Dutch: [x]) or the sole dorsal fricative in Northern SD and regional dialects and languages of the Netherlands (Dutch Low Saxon and West Frisian) spoken above the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Waal (sometimes termed the Rotterdam–Nijmegen Line). A plain fricative that is articulated slightly further front, as either medio-velar or post-palatal is typical of dialects spoken south of the rivers (mainly Brabantian and Limburgish but excluding Ripuarian and the dialect of Bergen op Zoom), including Belgian SD. In those dialects, the voiceless uvular fricative trill is one of the possible realizations of the phoneme /r/.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11] See Hard and soft G in Dutch for more details.

The frication in the fricative trill variant sometimes occurs at the middle or the back of the soft palate (termed velar or mediovelar and post-velar, respectively), rather than the uvula itself. This is the case in Northern Standard Dutch as well as some varieties of Arabic, Limburgish and Madrid Spanish. It may thus be appropriate to call those variants voiceless (post)velar-uvular fricative trill as the trill component is always uvular (velar trills are not physically possible). The corresponding IPA symbol is ʀ̝̊˖ (a devoiced, raised and advanced uvular trill, where the "advanced" diacritic applies only to the fricative portion of the sound). Thus, in cases where a dialectal variation between voiceless uvular and velar fricatives is claimed the main difference between the two may be the trilling of the uvula as frication can be velar in both cases - compare Northern Dutch acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' (with a postvelar-uvular fricative trill) with Southern Dutch [ɑxt] or [ɑx̟t], which features a non-trilled fricative articulated at the middle or front of the soft palate.[3][4][5][9][10][12]

For a voiceless pre-uvular fricative (also called post-velar), see voiceless velar fricative.


Features of the voiceless uvular fricative:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Afrikaans[13][14] goed [χut] 'good' Varies between a fricative and a fricative trill when word-initial.[13] See Afrikaans phonology.
Arabic[12] خضراء aḍrāʾ [χadˤraːʔ] 'green' (f.) Fricative trill with velar frication.[12] May be transcribed in IPA with x. See Arabic phonology
Armenian խաղ x [χɑʁ] 'game'
Chuvash хăна hăna [χə'na] 'guest'
Danish Standard[15] pres [ˈpχæs] 'pressure' Before /r/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing of /r/.[16] Usually transcribed in IPA with ʁ. See Danish phonology.
Dutch Standard Northern[5][6] acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' Fricative trill with post-velar frication.[5] May be transcribed in IPA with x. See Dutch phonology and Hard and soft G in Dutch
Belgian[7][8] brood [bʀ̝̊oːt] 'bread' Voiced when following a vowel.[17] Realization of /r/ varies considerably among dialects. See Dutch phonology
English Scouse[18] clock [kl̥ɒχ] 'clock' Possible word-final realization of /k/; varies between a fricative and a fricative trill.[18]
neck [nɛχ] 'neck'
Welsh[19][20] Amlwch [ˈamlʊχ] 'Amlwch' Occurs only in loanwords from Welsh;[19] usually transcribed in IPA with x. See English phonology
White South African[14][21] gogga [ˈχɒχə] 'insect' Less commonly velar [x], occurs only in loanwords from Afrikaans and Khoisan.[14] Usually transcribed in IPA with x. See White South African English phonology and English phonology.
French très [t̪χɛ] 'very' Allophone of /ʁ/ in contact with voiceless consonants. See French phonology
German Standard[22] Dach [daχ] 'roof' Appears only after certain back vowels. See Standard German phonology
Chemnitz dialect[23] Rock [χɔkʰ] 'skirt' In free variation with [ʁ̞], [ʁ], [ʀ̥] and [q].[23] Does not occur in coda.[23]
Lower Rhine[24] Wirte [ˈvɪχtə] 'hosts' In free variation with [ɐ] between a vowel and a voiceless coronal consonant.
Hebrew [1] מֶלֶך mélekh [ˈme̞le̞χ] 'king' Usually a fricative trill.[1] See Modern Hebrew phonology.
Limburgish Some dialects[9][10][11] waor [β̞ɒ̝ːʀ̝̊] 'was' Allophone of /r/ that has been variously described as occurring in the syllable coda[9][10] and word-final.[11] May be only partially devoiced; frication may be uvular or post-velar.[9][10] The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect. See Maastrichtian dialect phonology and Hard and soft G in Dutch
Luxembourgish[25] Zuch [t͡suχ] 'train' See Luxembourgish phonology.
Low German Dutch Low Saxon[5][6] acht [ɑʀ̝̊˖t] 'eight' Fricative trill with post-velar frication;[5] voiceless counterpart of /ɣ/. May be transcribed in IPA with x. See Hard and soft G in Dutch
Portuguese General Brazilian[26] rompimento [χompi'mentʊ] 'rupture' (noun) Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/. See Portuguese phonology.
Ripuarian[27][28] ach [ɑχ] 'eight' Allophone of /x/ after back vowels. Fronted to [ç] or [ʃ] after front vowels and consonants.[27][28] It may be transcribed in IPA with x. See Colognian phonology, Kerkrade dialect phonology and Hard and soft G in Dutch
Spanish European[3][4] ojo [ˈo̞ʀ̝̊o̞] 'eye' Fricative trill; frication is velar in Madrid. Occurs in northern and central varieties.[3][4] Most often, it is transcribed with x in IPA. See Spanish phonology.
Ponce dialect[29] perro [ˈpe̞χo̞] 'dog' This and [ʀ̥] are the primary realizations of /r/ in this dialect.[29] See Spanish phonology.
Tlingit -dá [dáχ] 'from, out of' Occurs plain, labialised, ejective, and labialised ejective.
Turkmen gahar [ɢɑχɑɾ] 'snow'
Upper Sorbian[30] brach [bʁ̞äʀ̝̊] 'fault' Fricative trill.[30]
Welsh chwech [χweːχ] 'six' See Welsh phonology.
West Frisian[5][6] berch [bɛrʀ̝̊˖] 'mountain' Fricative trill with post-velar frication;[5] voiceless counterpart of /ɣ/. Never occurs in word-initial positions. May be transcribed in IPA with x. See West Frisian phonology
Wolof[2] sax [sax] Fricative trill.[2]
Yiddish[13] איך ikh [iχ] 'I' See Yiddish phonology.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Laufer (1999), p. 98.
  2. ^ a b c Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 167.
  3. ^ a b c d "Castilian Spanish - Madrid by Klaus Kohler".
  4. ^ a b c d Lyons (1981), p. 76.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Collins & Mees (2003:191). Goeman & Van de Velde (2001) have also found that frication is much more commonly in the velar region in dialects and language varieties with "hard G", though they do not distinguish between trilled and non-trilled fricatives in their study.
  6. ^ a b c d Gussenhoven (1999), p. 74.
  7. ^ a b Tops (2009), pp. 25, 30–32, 63, 80–88, 97–100, 105, 118, 124–127, 134–135, 137–138, 140–141.
  8. ^ a b Verhoeven (1994:?), cited in Tops (2009:22, 83)
  9. ^ a b c d e Heijmans & Gussenhoven (1998), p. 108.
  10. ^ a b c d e Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999), p. 156.
  11. ^ a b c Verhoeven (2007), p. 220.
  12. ^ a b c Thelwall & Sa'Addedin (1999), pp. 51, 53.
  13. ^ a b c "John Wells's phonetic blog: velar or uvular?". 5 December 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Bowerman (2004:939): "White South African English is one of very few varieties to have a velar fricative phoneme /x/ (see Lass (2002:120)), but this is only in words borrowed from Afrikaans (...) and Khoisan (...). Many speakers use the Afrikaans uvular fricative [χ] rather than the velar."
  15. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 62, 65–66.
  16. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  17. ^ Tops (2009), p. 83.
  18. ^ a b Wells (1982), pp. 372–373.
  19. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 389.
  20. ^ Tench (1990), p. 132.
  21. ^ Wells (1982), p. 619.
  22. ^ Hall (1993:100), footnote 7, citing Kohler (1990)
  23. ^ a b c Khan & Weise (2013), p. 235.
  24. ^ Hall (1993), p. 89.
  25. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 68.
  26. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), pp. 5–6.
  27. ^ a b Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997), p. 17.
  28. ^ a b Bodelier (2011), p. 19.
  29. ^ a b "ProQuest Document View - The Spanish of Ponce, Puerto Rico: A phonetic, phonological, and intonational analysis".
  30. ^ a b Howson (2017), p. 362.