An affricate is a consonant that begins as a stop and releases as a fricative, generally with the same place of articulation (most often coronal). It is often difficult to decide if a stop and fricative form a single phoneme or a consonant pair. English has two affricate phonemes, /t/ and /d/, often spelled ch and j, respectively.
The English sounds spelled "ch" and "j" (broadly transcribed as [t] and [d] in the IPA), German and Italian z [t?s] and Italian z [d?z] are typical affricates, and sounds like these are fairly common in the world's languages, as are other affricates with similar sounds, such as those in Polish and Chinese. However, voiced affricates other than [d] are relatively uncommon. For several places of articulation they are not attested at all.
Much less common are labiodental affricates, such as [p?f] in German and Izi, or velar affricates, such as [k?x] in Tswana (written kg) or in High Alemannic Swiss German dialects. Worldwide, relatively few languages have affricates in these positions even though the corresponding stop consonants, [p] and [k], are common or virtually universal. Also less common are alveolar affricates where the fricative release is lateral, such as the [t] sound found in Nahuatl and Navajo. Some other Athabaskan languages, such as Dene Suline, have unaspirated, aspirated, and ejective series of affricates whose release may be dental, alveolar, postalveolar, or lateral: [t], [t?], [t'], [t?s], [t?s?], [t?s'], [t], [t], [t'], [t], [t], and [t'].
Affricates are transcribed in the International Phonetic Alphabet by a combination of two letters, one for the stop element and the other for the fricative element. In order to show that these are parts of a single consonant, a tie bar is generally used. The tie bar appears most commonly above the two letters, but may be placed under them if it fits better there, or simply because it is more legible. Thus:
A less common notation indicates the release of the affricate with a superscript:
This is derived from the IPA convention of indicating other releases with a superscript. However, this convention is more typically used for a fricated release that is too brief to be considered a true affricate.
Though they are no longer standard IPA, ligatures are available in Unicode for eight common affricates
Any of these notations can be used to distinguish an affricate from a sequence of a stop plus a fricative, which exists in some languages such as Polish. However, in languages where there is no such distinction, such as English, the tie bars are commonly dropped.
In other phonetic transcription systems, such as the Americanist system, affricates may be transcribed with single letters. The affricates [t?s], [d?z], [t], [d], [t], [d] are transcribed respectively as ⟨c⟩ or ⟨¢⟩; ⟨j⟩, ⟨?⟩, or (older) ⟨?⟩; ⟨c⟩ or ⟨?⟩; ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩, or (older) ⟨?⟩; ⟨?⟩; and ⟨?⟩ or ⟨dl⟩. Within the IPA, [t?] and [d?] are sometimes transcribed with the symbols for the palatal stops, ⟨c⟩ and ⟨?⟩.
In some languages, affricates contrast phonemically with stop-fricative sequences:
The exact phonetic difference varies between languages. In stop-fricative sequences, the stop has a release burst before the fricative starts; but in affricates, the fricative element is the release. Phonologically, stop-fricative sequences may have a syllable boundary between the two segments, but not necessarily.
In English, /ts/ and /dz/ (nuts, nods) are considered phonemically stop-fricative sequences. They often contain a morpheme boundary (for example, nuts = nut + s). The English affricate phonemes /t/ and /d/ do not generally contain morpheme boundaries. Depending on dialect, English speakers may distinguish an affricate from a stop-fricative sequence in some contexts such as when the sequence occurs across syllable boundaries:
One acoustic criterion for differentiating affricates and stop-fricative sequences is the rate of amplitude increase of the frication noise, which is known as the rise time. Affricates have a short rise time to the peak frication amplitude; stop-fricative sequences have longer rise times (Howell & Rosen 1983, Johnson 2003, Mitani et al. 2006).
In the case of coronals, the symbols ⟨t, d⟩ are normally used for the stop portion of the affricate regardless of place. For example, [t] is commonly seen for .
The exemplar languages are ones that have been reported to have these sounds, but in several cases they may need confirmation.
|Voiceless alveolar affricate||German z, tz
Japanese ?/? [tsu?]
Mandarin z (pinyin)
|Voiced alveolar affricate||Japanese (some dialects)|
|Voiceless dental affricate||Hungarian c
|Voiced dental affricate||Hungarian dz|
|Voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate||Japanese ?/? [t?i]
|Voiced alveolo-palatal affricate||Japanese ?/?, ?/? [d?i]|
Polish d?, dzi
|Voiceless palato-alveolar affricate||English ch, tch
Italian ci, ce
|Voiced palato-alveolar affricate||Arabic ?|
English j, g
Italian gi, ge
|Voiceless retroflex affricate||Mandarin zh (pinyin)
|Voiced retroflex affricate||Polish d?|
The Northwest Caucasian languages Abkhaz and Ubykh both contrast sibilant affricates at four places of articulation: alveolar, postalveolar, alveolo-palatal and retroflex. They also distinguish voiceless, voiced, and ejective affricates at each of these.
|Sound (voiceless)||IPA||Languages||Sound (voiced)||IPA||Languages|
|Voiceless bilabial affricate||[p?]||Present allophonically in Kaingang and Taos. Not reported as a phoneme in any natural language.||Voiced bilabial affricate||[b?]||Allophonic in Banjun  and Shipibo|
|Voiceless bilabial-labiodental affricate||[pf]||German, Teke||Voiced bilabial-labiodental affricate||[bv]||Teke[verification needed]|
|Voiceless labiodental affricate||[p?f]||XiNkuna Tsonga||Voiced labiodental affricate||[b?v]||XiNkuna Tsonga|
|Voiceless dental non-sibilant affricate||[t]||New York English, Luo, Dene Suline, Cun, some varieties of Venetian and other North Italian dialects||Voiced dental non-sibilant affricate||[d?ð]||New York English, Dene Suline|
|Voiceless retroflex non-sibilant affricate||[t]||Mapudungun[verification needed], Malagasy||Voiced retroflex non-sibilant affricate||[d]||Malagasy|
|Voiceless palatal affricate||[cç]||Skolt Sami (younger speakers), Hungarian (casual speech), Albanian (transcribed as [c]), allophonically in Kaingang||Voiced palatal affricate||||Skolt Sami (younger speakers), Hungarian (casual speech), Albanian (transcribed as [?]), some Spanish dialects. Not reported to contrast with a voiced palatal plosive [?]|
|Voiceless velar affricate||[kx]||Tswana,[verification needed]High Alemannic German||Voiced velar affricate||||English|
|Voiceless uvular affricate||[q?]||Nez Percé, Wolof, Bats, Kabardian, Avar, Tsez. Not reported to contrast with a voiceless uvular plosive [q] in natural languages.||Voiced uvular affricate||||Reported from the Raivavae dialect of Austral and Ekagi with a velar lateral allophone  before front vowels.|
|Voiceless pharyngeal affricate||||Haida. Not reported to contrast with an epiglottal stop [?]||Voiced pharyngeal affricate||||Not attested in any natural language|
|Voiceless glottal affricate||[?h]||Yuxi dialect, English||Voiced glottal affricate||||Not attested in any natural language|
|Voiceless alveolar lateral affricate||[t?]||Cherokee, Nahuatl, Navajo, Tswana, etc.|
|Voiced alveolar lateral affricate||[d?]||Gwich'in, Sandawe. Not reported to ever contrast with a voiced alveolar lateral fricative [?].|
|Voiceless retroflex lateral affricate||||Kamkata-vari.|
|Voiced retroflex lateral affricate||||Not attested in any natural language.|
|Voiceless palatal lateral affricate||[c]||also ⟨c?⟩; as ejective [c'] = [c?'] in Dahalo; in free variation with [t] = [t?] in Hadza.|
|Voiced palatal lateral affricate||||Allophonic in Sandawe.|
|Voiceless velar lateral affricate||[k]||also ⟨k?⟩; as a prevelar in Archi and as an ejective [k'] = [k?'] in Zulu, also exist in the Laghuu language.|
|Voiced velar lateral affricate||||Laghuu.|
|Sound (voiceless)||IPA||Languages||Sound (voiced)||IPA||Languages|
|Voiceless trilled bilabial affricate||[p]||Not attested in any natural language.||Voiced trilled bilabial affricate||[b?]||Kele and Avava. Only reported in an allophone of [mb] before [o] or [u]|
|Voiceless trilled alveolar affricate||[tr?]||Ngkoth||Voiced trilled alveolar affricate||[dr]||Nias. Fijian and Avava also have this sound after [n].|
|Voiceless epiglottal affricate||||Not attested in any natural language.||Voiced epiglottal affricate||||Hydaburg Haida. Cognate to Southern Haida [?], Masset Haida [?].|
Although most affricates are homorganic, Navajo and Chiricahua Apache have a heterorganic alveolar-velar affricate [tx] (Hoijer & Opler 1938, Young & Morgan 1987, Ladefoged & Maddeison 1996, McDonough 2003, McDonough & Wood 2008, Iskarous, et.al. 2012). Wari' and Pirahã have a voiceless dental bilabially trilled affricate [t] (see #Trilled affricates), blackfoot has [ks]. Other heterorganic affricates are reported for Northern Sotho (Johnson 2003) and other Bantu languages such as Phuthi, which has alveolar-labiodental affricates [tf] and [dv], and Sesotho, which has bilabial-palatoalveolar affricates [p?] and [b?]. Djeoromitxi (Pies 1992) has [ps] and [bz].
The coronal and dorsal places of articulation attested as ejectives as well: [t?', ts', t?', t?', t?', t?', c', kx', k', q?']. Several Khoisan languages such as !Xóõ are reported to have voiced ejective affricates, but these are actually pre-voiced: [dts', dt?']. Affricates are also commonly aspirated: [?p?f?, t, ts?, t, t, t, t], murmured: [?b?v?, d], and prenasalized: [?dz, ?dz?, , ?]. Labialized, palatalized, velarized, and pharyngealized affricates are also common. Affricates may also have phonemic length, that is, affected by a chroneme, as in Italian and Karelian.
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In phonology, affricates tend to behave similarly to stops, taking part in phonological patterns that fricatives do not. Kehrein analyzes phonetic affricates as phonological stops. A sibilant or lateral (and presumably trilled) stop can be realized phonetically only as an affricate and so might be analyzed phonemically as a sibilant or lateral stop. In that analysis, affricates other than sibilants and laterals are a phonetic mechanism for distinguishing stops at similar places of articulation (like more than one labial, coronal, or dorsal place). For example, Chipewyan has laminal dental [t] vs. apical alveolar [t]; other languages may contrast velar [k] with palatal [c?ç] and uvular [q]. Affricates may also be a strategy to increase the phonetic contrast between aspirated or ejective and tenuis consonants.
According to Kehrein, no language contrasts a non-sibilant, non-lateral affricate with a stop at the same place of articulation and with the same phonation and airstream mechanism, such as /t?/ and /t/ or /k/ and /kx/.
In rare instances, a fricative-stop contour may occur. This is the case in dialects of Scottish Gaelic that have velar frication [?] where other dialects have pre-aspiration. For example, in the Harris dialect there is [?a?k?] 'seven' and [?hk?] 'eight' (or [?ax?k?], [?hx?k?]).