Voiceless postalveolar fricative

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This is also known as a voiceless palatal fricative /ʃ/, but not a true palatal, such as ç. In many languages, this is written as a digraph, but it's not always the case. The symbol is derived from the older form of writing s, which was used in the German Fraktur alphabet.

Fraktur German s The internal one is where the IPA ʃ comes from.


Germanic Languages


In Anglo-Saxon, the digraph sc when around a front vowel becomes /ʃ/.

Modern English

Modern English has several digraphs which can be used to form the sound /ʃ/. The most basic form is the spelling sh. However, there are others spellings. The digraph ch is used as /ʃ/ in words from French (such as chef and champagne). In the noun ending -tion, most of the time the initial sound is turned into a /ʃ/ (combination, redemption, and creation). Related to that is the digraph -ti- in several words (such as initial). The last one is often the spelling ss or simple s (such as tissue, fissure, or sure). In some German loanwords, the combination sch is used (schadenfreude, schnapps schnauzer).

High German and Low German

In High and Low German, the trigraph sch is used to form the sound /ʃ/.


The digraph sj is used for /ʃ/. It should be noted that the trigraph sch is pronounced /sx/ rather than /ʃ/.


In Norwegian, this sound is produced by the combination sk before j, i, or y or sj. Some dialects vary on this.


In Swedish, the digraph ch is used for /ʃ/, especially when it's after a front vowel (i, y, e, ä, or ö).

Romance Languages


The digraph ch is pronounced /ʃ/ in French.


Italian has a digraph which differs by the frontness of the vowel. The digraph sc when preceding an i or e becomes /ʃ/. Words like coscienza (conscience) /cɔʃjɛnʦa/, or riusciva (it succeeded) /rjuʃiva/.


The letter Ş,ş is used for /ʃ/ in Romanian. The nickname of the legendary ruler, Vlad Ţepeş (Vlad the Impaler), was pronounced /vlad ʦepeʃ/.

Slavic Languages


In the Cyrillic alphabet, /ʃ/ is represented by Ш ш, although in some dialects other sounds such as /ɕ/ or sometimes /ç/ are pronounced for this symbol.
Also, Щ, щ is pronounced /ʃʧ/, which can be split up when inside in bi-syllabic conditions.


In Polish, the sound /ʃ/ is represented by sz. Not to be mixed up with the combination si or the symbol ś which are both pronounced /ɕ/. The combination szcz is equivalent to Russian щ and is pronounced /ʃʧ/.



The Arabic form of this sound is ش‎.


The Hebrew symbol for /ʃ/ is שׁ or just ש.


The symbols used for this sound are similar to Romanian, Ş, ş.

Sound changes


/ʃ/ usually comes from something involving /s/:

  • In English, /sk/ and /sj/ became /ʃ/, with exeptions.
  • In Balto-Slavic, Albanian, Armenian, and Indo-Iranian, s → ʃ /[r, u, k, i]_ (Ruki sound law)
  • In Lithuanian, /ʃ/ came from /kʲ/.


This page is by Timothy Patrick Snyder.

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