voiced sound

Voiced glottal fricative

The breathy-voiced glottal transition, commonly called a voiced glottal fricative, is a type of sound used in some spoken languages which often behaves like a consonant, but sometimes behaves more like a vowel, or is indeterminate in its behavior. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɦ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h.

Although [ɦ] has been described as a breathy-voiced counterpart of the following vowel because of its lack of place and manner of articulation in many languages, it may have glottal constriction in a number of languages (such as Finnish), making it a fricative.


Features of the "voiced glottal fricative":

  • Its phonation type is breathy voiced, or murmured, which means the vocal cords are loosely vibrating, with more air escaping than in a modally voiced sound.
  • In some languages, it has the constricted manner of articulation of a fricative. However, in many if not most it is a transitional state of the glottis with no manner of articulation other than its phonation type. Because there is no other constriction to produce friction in the vocal tract, most phoneticians no longer consider ɦ to be a fricative. True fricatives may have a murmured phonation in addition to producing friction elsewhere. However, the term "fricative" is generally retained for the historical reasons.
  • It may have a glottal place of articulation. However, it may have no fricative articulation, making the term glottal mean that it is articulated by the vocal folds, but this is the nature of its phonation rather than a separate articulation. All consonants except for the glottals, and all vowels, have an individual place of articulation in addition to the state of the glottis. As with all other consonants, surrounding vowels influence the pronunciation [ɦ], and [ɦ] has sometimes been presented as a breathy-voiced vowel, having the place of articulation of these surrounding vowels.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
  • Because it is pronounced in the throat, without a component in the mouth, the central/lateral dichotomy does not apply.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Czech hora [ˈɦora] 'mountain' See Czech phonology
Dutch haat 'hate' See Dutch phonology
English RP behind 'behind' See English phonology
Finnish raha 'money' See Finnish phonology
Hebrew מהר 'hurry' See Hebrew phonology
Polish Silesian hangrys 'gooseberry'
Slovak hora 'mountain'
Ukrainian гора 'mountain' See Ukrainian phonology
Wu Shanghainese 'shoes'
Zulu ihhashi 'horse'

In Sanskrit, this sound is written "ह" in Devanāgarī and transcribed as "h" and "H" in IAST.

See also



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