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Department of Linguistics


Articulation of Fricatives

Robert Mannell

During the articulation of the fricatives the following sequence of events occurs:-

  1. If it is not already closed, the velum closes. This closure is necessary because without the closure of the nasal cavity too much air escapes through the nose and air pressure is not sufficient to force enough air through the fricative opening. This would result in inaudible or weak frication.
  2. The oral tract is almost closed at the place of articulation. A small opening is maintained to permit turbulent airflow.
  3. During the oral occlusion air continues to be expelled from the lungs. The vocal folds might be together and vibrating (to produce a voiced sound source) or might not be. Air pressure builds up behind the fricative opening and air is forced through the opening at sufficient velocity to create turbulence and audible noise.
  4. When the fricative phoneme is finished, the partial oral closure may be released, unless this is prevented by the requirements of the next phoneme.
  5. The active articulator continues to move towards its target for the next phoneme. The velum is free to open now, unless this is prevented by the requirements of the next phoneme.

In the following diagrams the position of the articulators is shown during the fricative target.

Figure 1: Articulation of labiodental fricatives.

Figure 2: Articulation of apico-dental fricatives..

Figure 3: Articulation of alveolar fricatives.

Figure 4: Articulation of post-alveolar fricatives.

Figure 5: Articulation of uvular fricatives.

Figure 6: Articulation of pharyngeal fricatives.