Voiceless alveolar fricative
The voiceless alveolar fricatives are a type of fricative consonant pronounced with the tip or blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge (gum line) just behind the teeth. This refers to a class of sounds, not a single sound. There are at least six types with significant perceptual differences:
- The voiceless alveolar sibilant [s] has a strong hissing sound, as the s in English sin. It is one of the most common sounds in the world.
- The voiceless denti-alveolar sibilant [s̄] (an ad hoc notation), also called apico-dental, has a weaker lisping sound like English th in thin. It occurs in Spanish dialects in southern Spain (eastern Andalusia).
- The voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant [s̠], and the subform apico-alveolar [s̺], or called grave, has a weak hushing sound reminiscent of retroflex fricatives. It is used in the languages of northern Iberia, like Asturleonese, Basque, Castilian Spanish (excluding parts of Andalusia), Catalan, Galician and Northern European Portuguese. A similar retracted sibilant form is also used in Dutch, Icelandic, some Southern dialects of Swedish, Finnish and Greek. Its sound is between [s] and [ʃ].
- The voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative [θ̠] or [θ͇], using the alveolar diacritic from the Extended IPA, is similar to the th in English thin. It occurs in Icelandic.
- The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ] sounds like a voiceless, strongly articulated version of English l (somewhat like what the English cluster **hl would sound like) and is written as ll in Welsh.
The first three types are sibilants, meaning that they are made by directing a stream of air with the tongue towards the teeth and have a piercing, perceptually prominent sound.