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An affricate is a phonetic contour segment (e. [ts]), consisting of a plosive (eg. [t]) released as a homorganic fricative (eg. [s]).

Table of affricates

Note that bilabial, glottal and voiced posterior affricates (*[pɸ], *[ɡɣ] etc.) are unattested outside of particularly fancy conlangs.

POA, MOA Voiceless Voiced
Labiodental pf bv
Alveolar sibilant ts dz
Alveolar lateral
Retroflex ʈʂ ɖʐ
Palatal ɟʝ
Velar kx

Phonology of affricates

Like all contour segments, affricates can be analyzed as single phonemes or as consonant clusters. Sometimes both interpretations are useful in a single language: English has monophonemic /dʒ/ (as in wedge) but biphonemic /dz/ (as in wedswed + -s).

If phonemicity needs to be emphasized (or distinguished - see below) in transcription, a tie bar (/t͡ʃ/; X-SAMPA /t_S/, CXS and Z-SAMPA also /tS)/), a ligature (/ʧ/) or a dedicated symbol (/č/) can be used.

Affricates vs. stops

Coronal affricates frequently result from assibilation of palatalized stops. They may continue to phonologically occupy the place of stops, eg. in utilizing contrasts such as aspiration not used on other consonants, or occupying the place of a palatalized stop in a palatalization-split consonant system. Free variation between a palatal stop and a palatal or palato-alveolar affricate is also possible (Hungarian, Indo-Aryan languages). In opposition to this, a contrast between palatal stops and palatal affricates is vanishingly rare; likewise development of a stop from an affricate is uncommon, but is attested in cases of phoneme system contraction.

Affricates vs. fricativs

Deaffrication is a common unconditional sound change, seen in eg. French, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. It is somewhat more common for voiced affricates (eg. Proto-Slavic). The reverse change is rarer, but can occur in assimilation of a fricative to another stop (especially a nasal stop, eg. /ns/ → /nts/).

Affricates vs. clusters

A marginal contrast in some languages (eg. Polish) is one of an affricate (eg. /ʦ/) and a sequence of the corresponding individual segments (eg. /ts/). Phonetically, this will then be a distinction of the stop having a separate release: /ts/ → [t˭s], [tʰs]

Affricates can develop from clusters of stop and approximant by fortition (and voice assimilation, if required) of the latter. An intermediate may be an affricate-approximant sequence or a devoiced approximant. The dialectal English development [tɹ] → [tʃɹ] → [tʃ] is an example.

Affricate inventories

Single-affricate inventories usually feature the plain /ts/, but many also make do with /tʃ/, some even with /dʒ/. This can occur even when

When two affricate places of articulation are involved, almost universally either of them (and most frequently both) will be alveolar or postalveolar.

Non-coronal affricates are quite rare and tend to only occur, at least if contrastiv with the corresponding plain stops, in systems having two or more types of coronal affricates as well.

(to be expanded)

Affricates have a stronger preference than stops for being voiceless; they also occur as ejective marginally more commonly (especially more posterior ones: in languages of southern Africa, the velar ejectiv /kʼ/ is frequently affricated as [kxʼ].)


The letters C, Č, are frequently used for the affricates /ts/, /tʃ/. For their voiced counterparts, J (when not used for /j/) is also frequently seen for /dʒ/. The letter Z is in some languages (German, Italian) used for /ts/ or /dz/. Lateral affricates are commonly written using L plus a suitable stop (tl, dl, etc.) (similarly retroflex affricates as tr, dr etc.); in scientific, especially Americanist transcription, the dedicated symbols ƛ /tɬ/ and λ /dɮ/ are also used.

Non-phonemic affricates are almost universally written with the corresponding individual graphemes: ts, ds, dth, etc. This is common practice for phonemic affricates as well.