Voiceless labiodental fricative

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Pulmonic Consonant
Kirshenbaum f
Place of Articulation: Labiodental
Manner of Articulation: Fricative
Phonological features: [+consonantal]

The voiceless labiodental fricative is a sound that occurs in some languages, represented as /f/ in the IPA.

Sound Changes

See also: Fricatives


A common origin of /f/ is the lenition of a voiceless bilabial stop such as *p or *pʰ. This can be part of a common stop lenition process, but may be independant, as in Arabic and Hungarian. The change commonly proceeds thru a bilabial intermediate [ɸ], so other outcomes are possible, eg. Celtic, where *sɸ → f, but *ɸ → h → ∅ otherwise. (See more at /p/, fricative.)

Many other fricatives can also change to /f/:

  • θ → f (Oscan, Latin and most other Italic languages[1]; some English dialects; some Oceanic branches)
  • x → f (Oscan — but not Latin, where *x → h)
  • xʷ → f (Oscan, Latin)
  • ʍ → f (some English dialects)
  • Devoicing: v → f. In many West Germanic varieties including Standard German, the change of *w → ʋ ~ v has pushed older †/v/ to /f/. This can also be part of a more general devoicing process; see eg. final devoicing.


  • w → f is found in Irish (when not intervocalic). Many different phonetic paths of development are possible here.
  • sp → f in Albanian
  1. Note on Italic: in Latin, the word-internal voicing of fricatives bleeds the change to /f/, leading to different reflexes, so /f/ only results initially.

See also