Voiced dental fricative

From FrathWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

This is the interdental fricative which is voiced, the symbol for it being /ð/ (pronounced eth or /ɛð/).The sound is relatively unstable compared to similar consonants like /d/ or /z/.


Germanic Languages



Like all other fricatives in Anglo-Saxon, the symbols Þ,þ and Đ,ð were used for both intervocalic sounds. When they were intervocalic they were usually voiced (unless geminated) and thusly became /ð/. Many modern English words with the voiced /ð/ come from this era.

Middle English

In many cases, this still used the symbols Þ,þ and Đ,ð, though they were in a quick decline. In their place th came. Some wrote them as t or d, but many used th. In some cases there were interdental and , which would later develop into the interdental fricatives. An example would be moder from Geoffry Chaucer. Later the interdental stop would become a fricative, and become mother, not moser or mozer indicating that the stop was interdental and not alveolar.

Modern English

Modern English uses the combination th to indicate both interdental fricatives. Some dialects replace the interdentals with dental stops (Irish English), labio-dental fricatives (Cockney and Philadelphian English), or alveolar fricatives (Pennsylvanian Dutch English). Although not the definite rule, most words in English which are written with an intervocalic th are voiced, such as bath /bæθ/ (voiceless) vs. bathe /beð/ (voiced). There are many words in Modern English with initial voiced interdental fricatives, such as the /ðə/, though /ðow/, then /ðɛn/, there /ðɛɹ/, that /ðæt/ etc. A minimal pair for the voiced and voiceless forms of the interdental fricatives are thy /ðaj/ (voiced), and thigh /θaj/ voiceless

Old Norse

Old Norse also had this sound. It was written in the Latin alphabet with the same two letters as it had been written with in the Anglo-Saxon alphabet, Þ,þ and Đ,ð. Many cases of Old Norse involved similar intervocalic fricatives becoming voiced, so it is likely that the symbols were used interchangeably. The letter þ, thorn, comes from the Runic alphabet. Also some cases of transliteration from runic and from Old Norse have /ð/ as dh. An example might be Odhinn, another spelling for Odin, king of the Norse gods.


Icelandic, unlike its Scandinavian cousins in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, did not loose the interdental fricative sounds. The symbols Þ,þ and Đ,ð are still used today on the Icelandic keyboard.


In some dialects of Danish, the /ð/ exists intervocalically, or after vowels, much like Spanish.

Old High German

In Old High German, before the High German Consonant Shift, /ð/ was in the language. However, after the sound shift it and its voiceless counterpart swiftly became /d/.


Spanish does not naturally have the interdental voiced fricative, but as an allophone. The letter d in Spanish is an interdental stop, /d̪/. When this sound is between, or in some cases after, a vowel, then it becomes /ð/. Examples include nada /naða/, todos /toðos/, and unidos /uniðos/.


The Greek letter for the interdental voiced fricative is Δ,δ also known as delta or dhelta. This letter is also used to form a common /d/, but the /ð/ is fairly commonplace.


The combination of dd produces the /ð/ sound in Welsh.

Semitic languages

Proto-Semitic is reconstructed with *ð.


Classical Arabic has /ð/ as the letter ﺬ.


Proto-Semitic *ð becomes /z/ in Hebrew. /d/ then becomes a new /ð/ unless word-initial or geminate.

Uralic languages

*ð is reconstructed for Proto-Uralic. This occurs eg. in the adjectival suffix *-iðA (→ Finnish -eA). It survives only in Sami (spelled <đ> there). In Finnic it merged with *t, and in Permic with *l. There also was a palatalized functional counterpart *ð' that may have been an actual [ðʲ] but just as well eg. [ʝ]. This occurs in eg. the roots *d'ümä 'glue' (→ Finnish tymä, tymäkkä) and *d'ïxmi 'bird cherry' (→ Finnish tuomi)

Baltic Finnic consonant gradation produced new †/ð/. This, too, has decayed down by now (last seen in the Old Rauma dialect of Finnish which died around the erly 20th C.) In Finnish it was lost after an unstressed syllable. After a stressed syllable it turns into /r/ (western dialects), null (eastern dialects), /j/ (parts of Karelia) or /l/ (a small area in Tavastia). Standard Finnish prescribes a pronunciation of /d/ but in practice this is commonly [ɾ].


All but Uralic and Semitic was written by Timothy Patrick Snyder.

Back to IPA