Voiceless bilabial plosive

The voiceless bilabial plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is p, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is p. The voiceless bilabial plosive in English is spelled with 'p', as in pit or speed.

[p] is missing from about 10% of languages that have a [b]. (See voiced velar plosive for another such gap.) This is an areal feature of the "circum-Saharan zone" (Africa north of the equator, including the Arabian peninsula). It is not known how old this areal feature is, and whether it might be a recent phenomenon due to Arabic as a prestige language (Arabic lost its /p/ in prehistoric times), or whether Arabic was itself affected by a more ancient areal pattern. It is found in other areas as well; for example, in Europe, Proto-Celtic and Old Basque are both reconstructed as having [b] but no [p].

Nonetheless, the [p] sound is very common cross-linguistically. Most languages have at least a plain [p], and some distinguish more than one variety. Many Indo-Aryan languages, such as Hindi, have a two-way contrast between aspirated and plain [p].


Features of the voiceless bilabial plosive:

Varieties of the voiceless bilabial plosive

IPA X-SAMPA Description
p p plain p
p_h aspirated p
p' (or p_j) palatalized p
p_w labialized p
p_} unreleased p
p_v voiced p
p_> ejective p


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Catalan parallamps [ˌpaɾəˈʎams] 'lightning conductor' See Catalan phonology
Chinese Mandarin 爆炸/bàozhà 'to explode' Contrasts with aspirated form. See Standard Mandarin
Czech pes 'dog' See Czech phonology
Dutch plicht 'duty' See Dutch phonology
English pack 'pack' See English phonology
French pomme 'apple' See French phonology
German Pack 'pile' See German phonology
Greek πόδι 'leg' See Modern Greek phonology
Hindi पल [pəl] 'moment' Contrasts with aspirated form. See Hindi-Urdu phonology
Hungarian pápa 'pope' See Hungarian phonology
Italian papà 'dad' See Italian phonology
Japanese ポスト/posuto 'mailbox' See Japanese phonology
Korean 풀/pul 'grass' See Korean phonology
Norwegian pappa 'dad' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto ﭙﺎﻧﻴﺮ [pɑˈnir] 'cheese'
Pirahã pibaóí [pìbàóí] 'otter'
Polish pas 'belt' See Polish phonology
Portuguese pai 'father' See Portuguese phonology
Romanian pas [pas] 'step' See Romanian phonology
Russian плод 'fruit' Contrasts with palatalized form. See Russian phonology
Spanish peso [ˈpe̞so̞] 'weight' See Spanish phonology
Swedish apa [ˈaːpʰa] 'ape' See Swedish phonology
Tsez пу [pʰu] 'side' Contrasts with ejective form.
Turkish kap [käp] 'pot' See Turkish phonology

See also



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