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Voiced bilabial fricative

The voiced bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨β⟩ (or more properly ⟨⟩), and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B. The symbol ⟨β⟩ is the Greek letter beta. This symbol is also sometimes used to represent the bilabial approximant, though that is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic, that is ⟨β̞⟩. Theoretically, it could also be transcribed as an advanced labiodental approximantʋ̟⟩, but this symbol is hardly ever, if at all, used so.

Voiced bilabial fricative
IPA number127
Entity (decimal)β
Unicode (hex)U+03B2
Braille⠨ (braille pattern dots-46)⠃ (braille pattern dots-12)
Voiced bilabial approximant

It is extremely rare for a language to make a phonemic contrast between the voiced bilabial fricative and the bilabial approximant. The Mapos Buang language of New Guinea contains this contrast, but its bilabial approximant is interpreted as filling a phonological gap in the labiovelar series of the consonant system rather than the bilabial series.[1]

The bilabial fricative is diachronically unstable and is likely to shift to [v].[2]

The sound is not used in English dialects except for Chicano English, but it can be produced by approximating the normal English [v] between the lips.



Features of the voiced bilabial fricative:


In the following transcriptions, the undertack diacritic is used to indicate an approximant [β̞].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Akei [βati] 'four'
Alekano hanuva [hɑnɯβɑ] 'nothing'
Amharic[3] አበባ [aβ̞əβ̞a] 'flower' Allophone of /b/ medially between sonorants.[3]
Angor fufung [ɸuβuŋ] 'horn'
Basque[4] alaba [alaβ̞a] 'daughter' Allophone of /b/
Bengali ভিসা [βisa] 'Visa' See Bengali phonology
Berta [βɑ̀lɑ̀ːziʔ] 'no'
Catalan[5] rebost [rəˈβ̞ɔst] 'larder' Approximant or fricative. Allophone of /b/. Mainly found in betacist (/b/ and /v/ merging) dialects. See Catalan phonology
Chinese Fuzhou[6] / chĕ̤ báik [t͡sœ˥˧βaiʔ˨˦] 'eighth day of the month' Allophone of /p/ and /pʰ/ in certain intervocalic positions.[6]
Comorian [example needed] Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
Dahalo[7] [koːβo] 'to want' Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /b/, and may be simply a plosive [b] instead.[7]
English Chicano very [βɛɹi] 'very' May be realized as [b] instead.
Ewe[8] Eʋe [èβe] 'Ewe' Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
German[9][10] aber [ˈaːβɐ] 'but' Intervocalic and pre-lateral allophone of /b/ in casual speech.[9][10] See Standard German phonology
Hebrew אבל ['äˈβal] 'however'
Hopi tsivot [tsi:βot] 'five'
Japanese[11] 神戸市/be-shi [ko̞ːβ̞e̞ ɕi] 'Kobe' Allophone of /b/ only in fast speech between vowels. See Japanese phonology
Kabyle bri [βri] 'to cut'
Kinyarwanda abana [aβana] 'children'
Korean /Jeonhwa/ [ˈt͡ɕɘːnβwa̠] 'telephone' Allophone of /h/. See Korean phonology
Limburgish[12][13] wèlle [ˈβ̞ɛ̝lə] 'to want' The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Luhya Nabongo [naβongo] 'king' Title of the king like Nabongo Mumia from the Wanga Dialect
Mapos Buang[1] venġévsën [βə.ˈɴɛβ.t͡ʃen] 'prayer' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as {v}, and the approximant as {w}.[1]
wabeenġ [β̞a.ˈᵐbɛːɴ] 'kind of yam'
Occitan Gascon la-vetz [laβ̞ets] 'then' Allophone of /b/
Portuguese European[14][15] bado [ˈsaβɐðu] 'Saturday' Allophone of /b/. See Portuguese phonology
Ripuarian Colognian[citation needed] wing [βɪŋ] 'wine' Allophone of syllable-initial /v/ for some speakers; can be [ʋ ~ w ~ ɰ] instead.[citation needed] See Colognian phonology
Kerkrade dialect[16] sjwaam [ʃβ̞aːm] 'smoke' Weakly rounded; contrasts with /v/.[16]
Sardinian Logudorese dialect[17] paba   [ˈpäːβä]  'pope' Intervocalic allophone of /b/ as well as word-initial /p/ when the preceding word ends with a vowel and there is no pause between the words.[17]
Spanish[18] lava [ˈläβ̞ä] 'lava' Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[19] Allophone of /b/. See Spanish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[20] aber [ˈɑːβ̞eɾ] 'problem' Allophone of /b/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Turkish[21] vücut [βy̠ˈd͡ʒut̪] 'body' Allophone of /v/ before and after rounded vowels.[21] See Turkish phonology
Turkmen watan [βatan] 'country'
Ukrainian[22] вона [β̞oˈnɑ] 'she' An approximant; the most common prevocalic realization of /w/. Can vary with labiodental [ʋ].[22] See Ukrainian phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[23] [example needed] Allophone of /b/

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Mose Lung Rambok and Bruce Hooley (2010). Central Buang‒English Dictionary (PDF). Summer Institute of Linguistics Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 9980 0 3589 7.
  2. ^ Picard (1987:364), citing Pope (1966:92)
  3. ^ a b Hayward & Hayward (1999:48)
  4. ^ Hualde (1991:99–100)
  5. ^ Wheeler (2005:10)
  6. ^ a b Zhuqing (2002:?)
  7. ^ a b Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  8. ^ Ladefoged (2005:156)
  9. ^ a b Krech et al. (2009:108)
  10. ^ a b Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2013.. This source mentions only intervocalic [β].
  11. ^ Okada (1991:95)
  12. ^ Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:155)
  13. ^ Peters (2006:117)
  14. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  15. ^ Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  16. ^ a b Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997:17)
  17. ^ a b (Italian) Archived 2015-01-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Martínez-Celdrán et al. (2003:257)
  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. ^ Engstrand (2004:167)
  21. ^ a b Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  22. ^ a b Žovtobrjux & Kulyk (1965:121–122)
  23. ^ Merrill (2008:109)