The voiceless uvular fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨χ⟩, the Greek chi, or, in broad transcription, ⟨x⟩, the Latin and English letter x, although the latter technically represents the voiceless velar fricative. The sound is represented by ⟨x̣⟩ (ex with underdot) in Americanist phonetic notation.

For a voiceless pre-uvular fricative (also called post-velar), see voiceless velar fricative.


Features of the voiceless uvular fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence.
  • Its place of articulation is uvular, which means it is articulated with the back of the tongue (the dorsum) at the uvula.
  • Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream along the center of the tongue, rather than to the sides.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) note that there is "a complication in the case of uvular fricatives in that the shape of the vocal tract may be such that the uvula vibrates."[1] See voiceless uvular raised non-sonorant trill for more information.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz хҧа [χpʰa] 'three' Contrasts with labialized and palatalized forms. See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe пхъашэ About this sound [pχaːʃa]  'rough'
Afrikaans[2][3] goed [χut] 'good' May be a voiceless trill [ʀ̥] when word-initial. Some speakers realize it as velar [x].[2] See Afrikaans phonology
Aleut Atkan dialect hati [hɑtiχ] 'ten'
Arabic Modern Standard[4] خضراء [χadˤraːʔ] 'green' (f.) May be velar, post-velar or uvular, depending on dialect.[4] See Arabic phonology
Archi хол [χol] 'arm'
Assyrian Neo-Aramaic khokha [χɔ:χa:] 'nectarine' May be velar [x] for some speakers.
Armenian Eastern[5] խոտ About this sound [χot]  ‘grass’
Avar орх [orχ] 'to lift' Contrasts with a tense form
Bashkir хат [χɑt] 'letter'
Berber Kabyle axxam [aχχam] 'house'
Chilcotin ʔalax [ʔælaχ] 'I made it'
Danish Standard[6] pres [ˈpχa̝s] 'pressure' Before /r/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing of /r/.[7] Usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨ʁ̥⟩ or simply ⟨ʁ⟩. See Danish phonology.
Dutch Standard Northern[8][9] acht [ɑχt] 'eight' May be post-velar, either a fricative [][8] or a trill fricative [ʀ̝̊˖].[10] See Dutch phonology
English Scouse[11] clock [kl̥ɒχ] 'clock' Possible word-final realization of /k/.[11]
Welsh[12][13] Amlwch [ˈamlʊχ] 'Amlwch' Occurs only in loanwords from Welsh;[12] usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See English phonology
White South African English[3][14] gogga [ˈχɒχə] 'insect' Less commonly velar [x], occurs only in loanwords from Afrikaans and Khoisian.[3] Usually transcribed in IPA with ⟨x⟩. See English phonology
Eyak da. [daːχ] 'and'
French proche [pχɔʃ] 'nearby' Allophone of /ʁ/ before or after voiceless obstruent. See French phonology
German Standard[15] Dach [daχ] 'roof' Appears only after certain back vowels. See Standard German phonology
Chemnitz dialect[16] Rock [χɔkʰ] 'skirt' In free variation with [ʁ̞], [ʁ], [ʀ̥] and [q].[16] Doesn't occur in the coda.[16] See Chemnitz dialect phonology
Lower Rhine[17] Wirte [ˈvɪχtə] 'hosts' In free variation with [ɐ] between a vowel and a voiceless coronal consonant.
Swiss mich [mɪχ] 'me' (acc.) Some speakers; others have velar [x]. Swiss German makes no distinction between /x/ and /ç/.
Haida ḵ'aláaan [qʼʌlɑ́χʌn] 'fence'
Hebrew[18] צָרַח [ʦˁaraχ] 'Shout' May be a trilled fricative instead.[18] See Modern Hebrew phonology
Kabardian пхъэ About this sound [pχa]  'wood'
Klallam saʔqʷaʔ [sχaʔqʷaʔ] 'salmon backbone'
Lakota ȟóta [ˈχota] 'gray'
Lezgian хат [χatʰ] 'bead' Contrasts with a labialized form
Limburgish Hamont dialect[19] r [¹jɔːχ] 'year' Word-final allophone of /ʀ/; can be a fricative trill [ʀ̝̊] instead.[19] See Hamont dialect phonology
Luxembourgish[20] Zuch [t͡suχ] 'train' See Luxembourgish phonology
Ongota [χibiɾi] 'bat'
Oowekyala [t͡sʼkʷʼχtʰt͡ɬʰkʰt͡sʰ] 'the invisible one here with me will be short'
Ossetic Iron хæдзар [χəˈzär] 'house'
Nez Perce [ˈχəχɑˑt͡s] 'grizzly bear'
Portuguese Fluminense anarquia [ɐ̃näχˈki.ɐ] 'anarchy' In free variation with [x], [ʁ ~ ʀ], [ħ] and [h] before voiceless consonants.
General Brazilian[21] marrom [mäˈχõː] 'brown' (noun) Some dialects, corresponds to rhotic consonant /ʁ/. See Portuguese phonology
Saanich wexes [wəχəs] 'small frogs' Contrasts with a labialized form
Seri xeecoj [χɛːkox] 'wolf' Contrasts with a labialized form
Spanish European[22][23] ojo About this sound [ˈo̞χo̞]  'eye' May be post-velar instead.[22][24][25] It's also an allophone of /x/ before back vowels and [w][26] for speakers with a velar /x/. It corresponds to [x ~ h] in southern Spain and Latin America.[24] See Spanish phonology
Ponce dialect[27] perro [ˈpe̞χo̞] 'dog' This and [ʀ̥] are the primary realizations of /r/ in this dialect.[27] See Spanish phonology
Swedish Southern sjuk [χʉːk] 'sick' Dialectal. See Swedish phonology
Tlingit tlaxh [tɬʰɐχ] 'very' Contrasts with labialized, ejective and labialized ejective form
Ubykh [χɐpɬɨ́] 'pink' One of ten distinct uvular fricative phonemes. See Ubykh phonology
Uyghur یاخشی‎/yaxshi [jɑχʃi] 'good'
Welsh carchar [ˈkarχar] 'jail' See Welsh phonology
West Frisian berch [bɛrχ] 'mountain' Never occurs in word-initial positions.
Yiddish בוך [bʊχ] 'book' See Yiddish phonology

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 167.
  2. ^ a b "John Wells's phonetic blog: velar or uvular?". 5 December 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Bowerman (2004:939): "White South African English is one of very few varieties to have a velar fricative phoneme /x/ (see Lass (2002:120)), but this is only in words borrowed from Afrikaans (...) and Khoisan (...). Many speakers use the Afrikaans uvular fricative [χ] rather than the velar."
  4. ^ a b Watson (2002), pp. 17, 19-20, 35-36 and 38.
  5. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009), p. 18.
  6. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 62, 65–66.
  7. ^ Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  8. ^ a b Gussenhoven (1999), p. 74.
  9. ^ Verhoeven (2005), p. 245.
  10. ^ Collins & Mees (2003:191). The source says that it is a fricative with a "very energetic articulation with considerable scrapiness", i.e. a trill fricative.
  11. ^ a b Wells (1982), pp. 372–373.
  12. ^ a b Wells (1982), p. 389.
  13. ^ Tench (1990), p. 132.
  14. ^ Wells (1982), p. 619.
  15. ^ Hall (1993:100), footnote 7, citing Kohler (1990)
  16. ^ a b c Khan & Weise (2013), p. 235.
  17. ^ Hall (1993), p. 89.
  18. ^ a b Laufer (1999), p. 98.
  19. ^ a b Verhoeven (2007), p. 220.
  20. ^ Gilles & Trouvain (2013), p. 68.
  21. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004), pp. 5–6.
  22. ^ a b Lyons (1981), p. 76.
  23. ^ Harris & Vincent (1988), p. 83.
  24. ^ a b Chen (2007), p. 13.
  25. ^ Hamond (2001:?), cited in Scipione & Sayahi (2005:128)
  26. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003), p. 258.
  27. ^ a b "ProQuest Document View - The Spanish of Ponce, Puerto Rico: A phonetic, phonological, and intonational analysis".