Voiced bilabial fricative

Voiced bilabial fricative
IPA number 127
Entity (decimal) β
Unicode (hex) U+03B2
Kirshenbaum B
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Voiced bilabial approximant
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The voiced bilabial fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is β (or more properly ), and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is B. The symbol β is the Greek letter beta. This symbol is also sometimes used to represent the bilabial approximant, though that is more clearly written with the lowering diacritic, that is β̞. Theoretically, it could also be transcribed as an advanced labiodental approximant ʋ̟, but this symbol is hardly ever, if at all, used so.

It is extremely rare for a language to make a phonemic contrast between the voiced bilabial fricative and the bilabial approximant. The Mapos Buang language of New Guinea contains this contrast, but its bilabial approximant is interpreted as filling a phonological gap in the labiovelar series of the consonant system rather than the bilabial series.[1]

The bilabial fricative is diachronically unstable and is likely to shift to [v].[2]

The sound is not used in English dialects except for Chicano English, but it can be produced by approximating the normal English [v] between the lips.


Features of the voiced bilabial fricative:

  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • Because the sound is not produced with airflow over the tongue, the centrallateral dichotomy does not apply.


In the following transcriptions, the undertack diacritic is used to indicate an approximant [β̞].

Amharic[3]አበባ[aβ̞əβ̞a]'flower'Allophone of /b/ medially between sonorants.[3]
Basque[4]alaba[alaβ̞a]'daughter'Allophone of /b/
Bengaliভিসা[βisa]'Visa'See Bengali phonology
Catalan[5]rebost[rəˈβ̞ɔst]'larder'Approximant or fricative. Allophone of /b/. Mainly found in betacist (/b/ and /v/ merging) dialects. See Catalan phonology
ChineseFuzhou[6]初八[t͡sœ˥˧βaiʔ˨˦]'eighth day of the month'Allophone of /p/ and /pʰ/ in certain intervocalic positions.[6]
Comorian Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
Dahalo[7][koːβo]'to want'Weak fricative or approximant. It is a common intervocalic allophone of /b/, and may be simply a plosive [b] instead.[7]
EnglishChicanovery[βɛɹi]'very'May be realized as [b] instead.
Ewe[8]Eʋe[èβe]'Ewe'Contrasts with both [v] and [w]
German[9][10]aber[ˈaːβɐ]'but'Intervocalic and pre-lateral allophone of /b/ in casual speech.[9][10] See Standard German phonology
Hebrew אבל ['äˈβal] 'however'
Japanese[11]神戸市/be-shi[ko̞ːβ̞e̞ ɕi]'Kobe'Allophone of /b/ only in fast speech between vowels. See Japanese phonology
Kabylebri[βri]'to cut'
Korean/Jeonhwa/[ˈt͡ɕɘːnβwa̠]'telephone'Allophone of /h/. See Korean phonology
Limburgish[12][13]wèlle[ˈβ̞ɛ̝lə]'to want'The example word is from the Maastrichtian dialect.
Luhya Nabongo [naβongo] 'king' Title of the king like Nabongo Mumia from the Wanga Dialect
Mapos Buang[1] venġévsën [βə.ˈɴɛβ.t͡ʃen] 'prayer' Mapos Buang has both a voiced bilabial fricative and a bilabial approximant as separate phonemes. The fricative is transcribed as {v}, and the approximant as {w}.[1]
wabeenġ [β̞a.ˈᵐbɛːɴ] 'kind of yam'
OccitanGasconla-vetz[laβ̞ets]'then'Allophone of /b/
PortugueseEuropean[14][15]bado[ˈsaβɐðu]'Saturday'Allophone of /b/. See Portuguese phonology
RipuarianColognianwing[βɪŋ]'wine'Allophone of syllable-initial /v/ for some speakers; can be [ʋ ~ w ~ ɰ] instead. See Colognian phonology
Kerkrade dialect[16]sjwaam[ʃβ̞aːm]'smoke'Weakly rounded; contrasts with /v/.[16]
SardinianLogudorese dialect[17]paba [ˈpäːβä] 'pope'Intervocalic allophone of /b/ as well as word-initial /p/ when the preceding word ends with a vowel and there is no pause between the words.[17]
Spanish[18]lava[ˈläβ̞ä]'lava'Ranges from close fricative to approximant.[19] Allophone of /b/. See Spanish phonology
SwedishCentral Standard[20]aber[ˈɑːβ̞eɾ]'problem'Allophone of /b/ in casual speech. See Swedish phonology
Turkish[21]vücut[βy̠ˈd͡ʒut̪]'body'Allophone of /v/ before and after rounded vowels.[21] See Turkish phonology
Ukrainian[22]вона[β̞oˈnɑ]'she'An approximant; the most common prevocalic realization of /w/. Can vary with labiodental [ʋ].[22] See Ukrainian phonology
ZapotecTilquiapan[23] Allophone of /b/

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Mose Lung Rambok and Bruce Hooley (2010). Central Buang‒English Dictionary (PDF). Summer Institute of Linguistics Papua New Guinea Branch. ISBN 9980 0 3589 7.
  2. Picard (1987:364), citing Pope (1966:92)
  3. 1 2 Hayward & Hayward (1999:48)
  4. Hualde (1991:99–100)
  5. Wheeler (2005:10)
  6. 1 2 Zhuqing (2002:?)
  7. 1 2 Maddieson et al. (1993:34)
  8. Ladefoged (2005:156)
  9. 1 2 Krech et al. (2009:108)
  10. 1 2 Sylvia Moosmüller (2007). "Vowels in Standard Austrian German: An Acoustic-Phonetic and Phonological Analysis" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved March 9, 2013.. This source mentions only intervocalic [β].
  11. Okada (1991:95)
  12. Gussenhoven & Aarts (1999:155)
  13. Peters (2006:117)
  14. Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  15. Mateus & d'Andrade (2000:11)
  16. 1 2 Stichting Kirchröadsjer Dieksiejoneer (1997:17)
  17. 1 2 (Italian) http://www.antoninurubattu.it/rubattu/grammatica-sarda-italiano-sardo.html Archived 2015-01-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. Martínez-Celdrán et al. (2003:257)
  19. Phonetic studies such as Quilis (1981) have found that Spanish voiced stops may surface as spirants with various degrees of constriction. These allophones are not limited to regular fricative articulations, but range from articulations that involve a near complete oral closure to articulations involving a degree of aperture quite close to vocalization
  20. Engstrand (2004:167)
  21. 1 2 Göksel & Kerslake (2005:6)
  22. 1 2 Žovtobrjux & Kulyk (1965:121–122)
  23. Merrill (2008:109)


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