Voiced Dental Approximant
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Voiced Dental Approximant
Voiced dental fricative
IPA Number131
Entity (decimal)ð
Unicode (hex)U+00F0
Braille? (braille pattern dots-12456)
Audio sample
Voiced dental approximant
Audio sample

The voiced dental fricative is a consonant sound used in some spoken languages. It is familiar to English-speakers as the th sound in father. Its symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is eth, or [ð] and was taken from the Old English and Icelandic letter eth, which could stand for either a voiced or unvoiced (inter)dental non-sibilant fricative. Such fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth (as in Received Pronunciation), and not just against the back of the upper teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

The letter ⟨ð⟩ is sometimes used to represent the dental approximant, a similar sound, which no language is known to contrast with a dental non-sibilant fricative,[1] but the approximant is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic: ⟨ð?⟩. Very rarely used variant transcriptions of the dental approximant include ⟨⟩ (retracted ), ⟨⟩ (advanced ) and ⟨⟩ (dentalized ). It has been proposed that either a turned ?ð?[2] or reversed [3] be used as a dedicated symbol for the dental approximant, but despite occasional usage, this has not gained general acceptance.

The fricative and its unvoiced counterpart are rare phonemes. Almost all languages of Europe and Asia, such as German, French, Persian, Japanese, and Mandarin, lack the sound. Native speakers of languages without the sound often have difficulty enunciating or distinguishing it, and they replace it with a voiced alveolar sibilant [z], a voiced dental stop or voiced alveolar stop [d], or a voiced labiodental fricative [v]; known respectively as th-alveolarization, th-stopping, and th-fronting. As for Europe, there seems to be a great arc where the sound (and/or its unvoiced variant) is present. Most of Mainland Europe lacks the sound. However, some "periphery" languages as Gascon, Welsh, English, Icelandic, Elfdalian, Kven, Northern Sami, Inari Sami, Skolt Sami, Ume Sami, Mari, Greek, Albanian, Sardinian, some dialects of Basque and most speakers of Spanish have the sound in their consonant inventories, as phonemes or allophones.

Within Turkic languages, Bashkir and Turkmen have both voiced and voiceless dental non-sibilant fricatives among their consonants. Among Semitic languages, they are used in Modern Standard Arabic, albeit not by all speakers of modern Arabic dialects, and in some dialects of Hebrew and Assyrian.


Features of the voiced dental non-sibilant fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence. It does not have the grooved tongue and directed airflow, or the high frequencies, of a sibilant.
  • Its place of articulation is dental, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the upper teeth, termed respectively apical and laminal. Note that most stops and liquids described as dental are actually denti-alveolar.
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • 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, the undertack diacritic may be used to indicate an approximant [ð?].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian idhull [iðu?] 'idol'
Aleut Atkan dialect dax? [ð] 'eye'
Arabic Modern Standard[4] ['ðahab] 'gold' See Arabic phonology
Tunisian See Tunisian Arabic phonology
Aromanian[5] zal? ['ðal?] 'butter whey' Corresponds to in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Assyrian ? werda [w?rð?a] 'flower' Common in the Tyari, Barwari, and Western dialects.
Corresponds to in other varieties.
Asturian Some dialects fazer [fä'ðe?] 'to do' Alternative realization of etymological ⟨z⟩. Can also be realized as .
Bashkir ?/qað 'goose'
Basque[6] adar [að?ar] 'horn' Allophone of /d/
Berta [f:ðn] 'to sweep'
Burmese[7] [àdðá] 'inlander' Commonly realized as an affricate .[8]
Catalan[9] fada ['fað] 'fairy' Fricative or approximant. Allophone of /d/. See Catalan phonology
Cree Woods Cree (th-dialect) /nitha [niða] 'I' Reflex of Proto-Algonguian *r. Shares features of a sonorant.
Dahalo[10] [example needed] Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /d?/, and may be simply a plosive instead.[10]
Elfdalian baiða ['ba?ða] 'wait'
Emilian Bolognese ?änt [ðæ?:t] 'people'
English this 'this' See English phonology
Extremaduran ?azel [häðel] 'to do' Realization of etymological 'z'. Can also be realized as [?]
Fijian ciwa [ðiwa] 'nine'
Galician Some dialects[11] fazer [f?'ðe?] 'to do' Alternative realization of etymological ⟨z⟩. Can also be realized as [?, z, z?].
German Austrian[12] leider ['laða] 'unfortunately' Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Standard German phonology
Greek ??/dáfni ['ðafni] 'laurel' See Modern Greek phonology
Gwich'in niidhàn [ni:ðân] 'you want'
Hän ë?dhä? [ð] 'hide'
Harsusi [ðebe:r] 'bee'
Hebrew Iraqi ?? 'my lord' Commonly pronounced . See Modern Hebrew phonology
Judeo-Spanish Many dialects ‎ / kriador [k?ia'ðor] 'creator' Intervocalic allophone of /d/ in many dialects.
Kabyle ?u? [ðu?] 'to be exhausted'
Kagayanen[13] kalag [kað?a?] 'spirit'
Kurdish An approximant; postvocalic allophone of /d/. See Kurdish phonology.
Malay Malaysian Malay azan [a.ðan] 'azan' Only in Arabic loanwords; usually replaced with /z/. See Malay phonology
Mari Eastern dialect ?? [?oðo] 'lung'
Norman Jèrriais the [með] 'mother'
Northern Sami die?a [d?ieð?] 'science'
Norwegian Meldal dialect[14] i [ð:] 'in' Syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant[14] corresponding to /i:/ in other dialects. See Norwegian phonology
Occitan Gascon que divi [ke 'ð?iwi] 'what I should' Allophone of /d/. See Occitan phonology
Portuguese European[15] nada ['n?äð?] 'nothing' Northern and central dialects. Allophone of /d/, mainly after an oral vowel.[16] See Portuguese phonology
Sardinian nidu 'nest' Allophone of /d/
Scottish Gaelic iri ['ma:ð?] 'Mary' Some dialects (Lèodhas and Barraigh); otherwise realized as [][17]
Sioux Lakota zapta ['ðaptã] 'five' Sometimes with [z]
Spanish Most dialects[18] dedo ['d?e?ð?o?] 'finger' Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[19] Allophone of /d/. See Spanish phonology
Swahili dhambi [ð?mbi] 'sin' Mostly occurs in Arabic loanwords originally containing this sound.
Swedish Central Standard[20] bada ['b?:ð?ä] 'to take a bath' An approximant;[20] allophone of /d/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Some dialects[14][better source needed] i [ð:] 'in' A syllabic palatalized frictionless approximant[14][better source needed] corresponding to /i:/ in Central Standard Swedish. See Swedish phonology
Syriac Western Neo-Aramaic [a?:eð] 'to take'
Tamil [w?nb?ð?] 'nine' See Tamil phonology
Tanacross dhet [ðet] 'liver'
Turkmen gaz [?ä:ð] 'goose'
Tutchone Northern edhó [eð?] 'hide'
Southern adh? [að]
Venetian mezorno [me'ðorno] 'midday'
Welsh bardd [barð] 'bard' See Welsh phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[21] [example needed] Allophone of /d/

Danish [ð] is actually a velarized alveolar approximant.[22][23]

See also


  1. ^ Olson et al. (2010:210)
  2. ^ Kenneth S. Olson, Jeff Mielke, Josephine Sanicas-Daguman, Carol Jean Pebley & Hugh J. Paterson III, 'The phonetic status of the (inter)dental approximant', Journal of the International Phonetic Association, Vol. 40, No. 2 (August 2010), pp. 201-211
  3. ^ Ball, Martin J.; Howard, Sara J.; Miller, Kirk (2018). "Revisions to the extIPA chart". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 48 (2): 155-164. doi:10.1017/S0025100317000147.
  4. ^ Thelwall & Sa'Adeddin (1990:37)
  5. ^ Pop (1938), p. 30.
  6. ^ Hualde (1991:99-100)
  7. ^ Watkins (2001:291-292)
  8. ^ Watkins (2001:292)
  9. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:55)
  10. ^ a b Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  11. ^ "Atlas Lingüístico Gallego (ALGa) | Instituto da Lingua Galega - ILG". ilg.usc.es. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved 2013.
  13. ^ Olson et al. (2010:206-207)
  14. ^ a b c d Vanvik (1979:14)
  15. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  16. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  17. ^ http://doug5181.wixsite.com/sgdsmaps/blank-wlxn6. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  19. ^ Phonetic studies such as Quilis (1981) have found that Spanish voiced stops may surface as spirants with various degrees of constriction. These allophones are not limited to regular fricative articulations, but range from articulations that involve a near complete oral closure to articulations involving a degree of aperture quite close to vocalization
  20. ^ a b Engstrand (2004:167)
  21. ^ Merrill (2008:109)
  22. ^ Grønnum (2003:121)
  23. ^ Basbøll (2005:59, 63)


External links

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