Voiceless glottal fricative

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This is a standard voiceless glottal fricative. It is also comparable to a devoiced vowel. The symbol is /h/. In Romance languages that do not pronounce this sound, and English, the letter's name is usually pronounced with a palatal or velar sound (Spanish /aʧe/, French /aʃ/, Italian /aka/, Portuguese /aga/, English /eʧ/). In Germanic languages, the name is usually pronounced /ha/.


Germanic languages


In all stages of English, the letter h in the initial position (in a syllable of Modern English, though most of the time /h/ comes at the beginning of a word, notable exception is behind). In Anglo-Saxon, an h after a vowel would be /x/ or /ç/ depending on the location of the vowel. The symbol h is used in many digraphs without the /h/ pronunciation, such as ch /ʧ/, th /ð/ or /θ/, rh /ɹ/, ph /f/, sh /ʃ/, wh /ʍ/, and hn /n̯/, hr /ɹ̯/, and hl /ɬ/ (the last three are from Old and Middle English).

Other West Germanic Languages

High German, Dutch, and Low German also commonly use the symbol h to represent the sound /h/, which is also fairly common in the language.

In High German variations the digraphs sch /ʃ/, tsch /ʧ/, ch (Old High German hh /ç/), and ph /f/ or /pf/ are all used without the /h/ sound but spelt with the orthographic 'h.

Old Norse and Icelandic

The symbol h was/is used to mark devoiced versions of normally voiced sounds (like in Anglo-Saxon). Otherwise it is used to represent the normal /h/.

Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish

These three use the same symbol to represent this sound.

Romance Languages

Latin and Romanian

Latin and Romanian did/do have the letter h, which it was/is pronounced /h/, like most Germanic languages.


Spanish does not naturally have the sound /h/, but in some dialects in Central and South America, the sound /h/ is used for the letter j. NOTE: This is only a few dialects, it is more standard to pronounce j as /x/ after back vowels, and /ç/ elsewhere!


In Normandy, which was occupied by the Norman (Viking) peoples, they brought the /h/ sound with them into Old Norman French. Even today, the Norman French language is spoken with a /h/ sound.


In Lombardy, originally occupied by the Germanic speaking Langobards (Long Beards), some cases have still retained the Germanic glottal fricative in pronunciation.

Hebrew and Arabic

The Hebrew and Yiddish symbol for the /h/ sound is ה. The Arabic symbol for it is ه.

Ancient Egyptian

The symbol for /h/ was a reed shelter.
This is the Egyptian symbol for /h/.


Hawai'ian has the /h/ as an important part of its limited number of consonants.


Turkish also uses the symbol h for the glottal fricative /h/.


This page is by Timothy Patrick Snyder