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In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of breath that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. In English, aspirated consonants are allophones in complementary distribution with their unaspirated counterparts, but in some other languages, notably most Indian and East Asian languages, the difference is contrastive.

In dialects with aspiration, to feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say spin [spɪn] and then pin [pʰɪn]. One should either feel a puff of air or see a flicker of the candle flame with pin that one does not get with spin.

So-called voiced aspirated consonants are nearly always pronounced instead with breathy voice, a type of phonation or vibration of the vocal folds. The modifier letter ⟨◌ʰ⟩ after a voiced consonant actually represents a breathy-voiced or murmured dental stop, as with the "voiced aspirated" bilabial stop ⟨⟩ in the Indo-Aryan languages. This consonant is therefore more accurately transcribed as ⟨⟩, with the diacritic for breathy voice, or with the modifier letter ⟨⟩, a superscript form of the symbol for the voiced glottal fricativeɦ⟩.

Some linguists restrict the double-dot subscript ⟨◌̤⟩ to murmured sonorants, such as vowels and nasals, which are murmured throughout their duration, and use the superscript hook-aitch ⟨Some linguists restrict the double-dot subscript ⟨◌̤⟩ to murmured sonorants, such as vowels and nasals, which are murmured throughout their duration, and use the superscript hook-aitch ⟨◌ʱ⟩ for the breathy-voiced release of obstruents.