Voiceless glottal fricative

The voiceless glottal fricative, sometimes called voiceless glottal transition, and sometimes called the aspirate,[1][2] is a type of sound used in some spoken languages that patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is h, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is h, although [h] has been described as a voiceless vowel because in many languages, it lacks the place and manner of articulation of a prototypical consonant as well as the height and backness of a prototypical vowel:

[h and ɦ] have been described as voiceless or breathy voiced counterparts of the vowels that follow them [but] the shape of the vocal tract [...] is often simply that of the surrounding sounds. [...] Accordingly, in such cases it is more appropriate to regard h and ɦ as segments that have only a laryngeal specification, and are unmarked for all other features. There are other languages [such as Hebrew and Arabic] which show a more definite displacement of the formant frequencies for h, suggesting it has a [glottal] constriction associated with its production.[3]

Voiceless glottal fricative
IPA Number146
Entity (decimal)h
Unicode (hex)U+0068
Audio sample

Lamé contrasts voiceless and voiced glottal fricatives.[4]


Features of the "voiceless glottal fricative":

  • In some languages, it has the constricted manner of articulation of a fricative. However, in many if not most it is a transitional state of the glottis, with no manner of articulation other than its phonation type. Because there is no other constriction to produce friction in the vocal tract in the languages they are familiar with, many phoneticians[who?] no longer consider [h] to be a fricative. However, the term "fricative" is generally retained for historical reasons.
  • It may have a glottal place of articulation. However, it may have no fricative articulation, in which case the term 'glottal' only refers to the nature of its phonation, and does not describe the location of the stricture nor the turbulence. All consonants except for the glottals, and all vowels, have an individual place of articulation in addition to the state of the glottis. As with all other consonants, surrounding vowels influence the pronunciation [h], and [h] has sometimes been presented as a voiceless vowel, having the place of articulation of these surrounding vowels.
  • 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.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.


AdygheShapsugхыгь/khyg'[həɡʲ]'now'Corresponds to [x] in other dialects.
Albanianhire[hiɾɛ][stress?]'the graces'
ArabicModern Standard[5]هائل/haa'il[ˈhaːʔɪl]'enormous'See Arabic phonology
AssyrianEasternܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ hèmanūta[heːmaːnuːta]'faith'
Westernܗܪܟܗ harcë[hεrcɪ]'here'
ArmenianEastern[6]հայերեն/hayeren[hɑjɛɾɛn] 'Armenian'
Asturian South-central dialects uerza[ˈhweɾθɐ]'force'F- becomes [h] before -ue/-ui in some south-central dialects. May be also realized as [ħ, ʕ, ɦ, x, χ]
Oriental dialects acer [haˈθeɾ] "to do" F- becomes [h] in oriental dialects. May be also realized as [ħ, ʕ, ɦ, x, χ]
Azeri hin [hɪn]'chicken coop'
BasqueNorth-Eastern dialects[7]hirur[hiɾur]'three'Can be voiced [ɦ] instead.
Cantabrian muer [muˈheɾ] 'woman' F- becomes [h]. In most dialects, -LJ- and -C'L- too. May be also realized as [ħ, ʕ, ɦ, x, χ]
Chechenхӏара / hara[hɑrɐ]'this'
ChineseCantonese / hói[hɔːi̯˧˥]'sea'See Cantonese phonology
Taiwanese Mandarin / hǎi[haɪ̯˨˩˦]A velar fricative [x] for Standard Chinese. See Standard Chinese phonology
Danish[4]hus[ˈhuːˀs]'house'Often voiced [ɦ] when between vowels.[4] See Danish phonology
Englishhigh[haɪ̯]'high'See English phonology and H-dropping
Esperantohejmo[ˈhejmo]'home'See Esperanto phonology
Eastern LombardVal CamonicaBresa[ˈbrɛha]'Brescia'Corresponds to /s/ in other varieties.
Estonianhammas[ˈhɑmˑɑs]'tooth'See Estonian phonology
Finnishhammas[ˈhɑmːɑs]'tooth'See Finnish phonology
FrenchBelgianhotte[hɔt]'pannier'Found in the region of Liège. See French phonology
Galician Occidental, central, and some oriental dialects gato [ˈhätʊ] 'cat' Realization of [g] in some dialects. May be also realized as

[ɦ, ʕ, x, χ, ʁ, ɡʰ]. See gheada.

German[9]Hass[has]'hatred'See Standard German phonology
GreekCypriot[10]μαχαζί/mahazi[mahaˈzi]'shop'Allophone of /x/ before /a/.
Hawaiian[11]haka[ˈhɐkə]'shelf'See Hawaiian phonology
Hebrewהַר/har[häʁ̞]'mountain'See Modern Hebrew phonology
HindiStandard[5]हम/ham[ˈhəm]'we'See Hindustani phonology
Hmonghawm[haɨ̰]'to honor'
Hungarianhelyes[ˈhɛjɛʃ]'right'See Hungarian phonology
Irishshroich[hɾˠɪç]'reached'Appears as the lenited form of 'f', 's' and 't', as well as occasionally word-initial as 'h' in borrowed words. See Irish phonology.
ItalianTuscan[12]i capitani[iˌhäɸiˈθäːni]'the captains'Intervocalic allophone of /k/.[12] See Italian phonology
Japaneseすはだ / suhada[sɨᵝhada]'bare skin'See Japanese phonology
Korean하루 / haru[hɐɾu]'day'See Korean phonology
Kabardianтхылъхэ/ tkhyl"khė[tχɪɬhɑ]'books'
LimburgishSome dialects[13][14]hòs[hɔːs]'glove'Voiced [ɦ] in other dialects. The example word is from the Weert dialect.
Luxembourgish[15]hei[hɑ̝ɪ̯]'here'See Luxembourgish phonology
Norwegianhatt[hɑtː]'hat'See Norwegian phonology
Persianهفت/haft[hæft]'seven'See Persian phonology
PortugueseMany Brazilian dialects[16]marreta[maˈhetɐ]'sledgehammer'Allophone of /ʁ/. [h, ɦ] are marginal sounds to many speakers, particularly out of Brazil. See Portuguese phonology
Most dialectsHonda[ˈhõ̞dɐ]'Honda'
Minas Gerais (mountain dialect)arte[ˈahtʃ]'art'
Colloquial Brazilian[17][18]chuvisco[ɕuˈvihku]'drizzle'Corresponds to either /s/ or /ʃ/ (depending on dialect) in the syllable coda. Might also be deleted.
Romanianhăț[həts]'bridle'See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelicro-sheòl[ɾɔˈhɔːɫ]'topsail'[19]Lenited form of /t/, /s/, see Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-CroatianCroatian[20]hmelj[hmê̞ʎ̟]'hops'Allophone of /x/ when it is initial in a consonant cluster.[20] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Spanish[21]Andalusian and Extremaduran Spanishhigo[ˈhiɣo̞]'fig'Corresponds to Old Spanish /h/, which was developed from Latin /f/ but muted in other dialects.
Many dialectsobispo[o̞ˈβ̞ihpo̞]'bishop'Allophone of /s/ at the end of a syllable. See Spanish phonology
Some dialectsjaca[ˈhaka]'pony'Corresponds to /x/ in other dialects.
Swedishhatt[ˈhatː]'hat'See Swedish phonology
Turkishhalı[häˈɫɯ]'carpet'See Turkish phonology
Ubykhдуаха [dwaha]'prayer'See Ubykh phonology
Ukrainianкігті[ˈkiht⁽ʲ⁾i]'claws'Sometimes when [ɦ] is devoiced. See Ukrainian phonology
UrduStandard[5]ہم/ham[ˈhəm]'we'See Hindi-Urdu phonology
Vietnamese[22]hiểu[hjew˧˩˧]'understand'See Vietnamese phonology
Welshhaul[ˈhaɨl]'sun'See Welsh orthography
West Frisianhoeke[ˈhukə]'corner'
Yi / hxa[ha˧]'hundred'

See also