Voiceless retroflex fricative


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⟩ which is a Latin letter s combined with a retroflex hook. 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.

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

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

Features of the voiceless retroflex fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is generally produced by channeling air flow along a groove in the back of the tongue up to the place of articulation, at which point it is focused against the sharp edge of the nearly clenched teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
  • Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated subapical (with the tip of the tongue curled up), but more generally, it means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical subapical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


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 alsoEdit


  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 2013-11-13. 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.


  • Árnason, Kristján (2011), The Phonology of Icelandic and Faroese, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-922931-4
  • Canepari, Luciano (1992), Il MªPi – Manuale di pronuncia italiana [Handbook of Italian Pronunciation] (in Italian), Bologna: Zanichelli, ISBN 88-08-24624-8
  • Hamann, Silke (2004), "Retroflex fricatives in Slavic languages" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34 (1): 53–67, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001604, archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-04-14, retrieved 2015-04-09
  • Hanulíková, Adriana; Hamann, Silke (2010), "Slovak" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 40 (3): 373–378, doi:10.1017/S0025100310000162
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005), Vowels and Consonants (2nd ed.), Blackwell
  • Lunsford, Wayne A. (2001), "An overview of linguistic structures in Torwali, a language of Northern Pakistan" (PDF), M.A. Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquiapan Zapotec" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 38 (1): 107–114, doi:10.1017/S0025100308003344
  • Pop, Sever (1938), Micul Atlas Linguistic Român, Muzeul Limbii Române Cluj
  • Sadowsky, Scott; Painequeo, Héctor; Salamanca, Gastón; Avelino, Heriberto (2013), "Mapudungun", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 87–96, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000369
  • Šewc-Schuster, Hinc (1984), Gramatika hornjo-serbskeje rěče, Budyšin: Ludowe nakładnistwo Domowina
  • Thompson, Laurence (1959), "Saigon phonemics", Language, 35 (3): 454–476, doi:10.2307/411232, JSTOR 411232
  • Zygis, Marzena (2003), "Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Slavic Sibilant Fricatives" (PDF), ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 3: 175–213, doi:10.21248/zaspil.32.2003.191
  • Kordić, Snježana (2006), Serbo-Croatian, Languages of the World/Materials; 148, Munich & Newcastle: Lincom Europa, ISBN 978-3-89586-161-1
  • Landau, Ernestina; Lončarić, Mijo; Horga, Damir; Škarić, Ivo (1999), "Croatian", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A guide to the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 66–69, ISBN 978-0-521-65236-0

External linksEdit

  • List of languages with [ʂ] on PHOIBLE
  • List of languages with [ɻ̊] on PHOIBLE