aspirated consonant


phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. The field of phon ...

, aspiration is the strong burst of
breath upright=1.4, X-ray video of a female American alligator while breathing. Breathing (or ventilation) is the process of moving air File:Atmosphere gas proportions.svg, Composition of Earth's atmosphere by volume, excluding water vapor. Low ...

that accompanies either the release or, in the case of
preaspirationIn phonetics, preaspiration (sometimes spelled pre-aspiration) is a period of Voice (phonetics), voicelessness or Aspiration (phonetics), aspiration preceding the closure of a voiceless obstruent, basically equivalent to an -like sound preceding the ...
, the closure of some
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
s. In English, aspirated
consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounced with the back of th ...
s are
allophone In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particu ...
s in
complementary distribution In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
with their unaspirated counterparts, but in some other languages, notably most
Indian Indian or Indians refers to people or things related to India, or to the indigenous people of the Americas, or Aboriginal Australians until the 19th century. People South Asia * Indian people, people of Indian nationality, or people who come ...

East Asian languages The East Asian languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing syste ...
, the difference is
. 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'' and then ''pin'' . 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''.


In the
International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest seq ...
(IPA), aspirated consonants are written using the symbols for voiceless consonants followed by the aspiration modifier letter , a superscript form of the symbol for the voiceless glottal fricative . For instance, represents the voiceless bilabial stop, and represents the aspirated bilabial stop. Voice (phonetics), Voiced consonants are seldom actually aspirated. Symbols for voice (phonetics), voiced consonants followed by , such as , typically represent consonants with murmured voiced release (see #Breathy-voiced release, below). In the shiksha, grammatical tradition of Sanskrit, aspirated consonants are called voiceless aspirated, and breathy-voiced consonants are called voiced aspirated. There are no dedicated IPA symbols for degrees of aspiration and typically only two degrees are marked: unaspirated and aspirated . Obsolete and nonstandard symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet, An old symbol for light aspiration was , but this is now obsolete. The aspiration modifier letter may be doubled to indicate especially strong or long aspiration. Hence, the two degrees of aspiration in Korean stops are sometimes transcribed or and , but they are usually transcribed and , with the details of voice onset time given numerically. Preaspirated consonants are marked by placing the aspiration modifier letter before the consonant symbol: represents the preaspirated bilabial stop. Unaspirated or tenuis consonants are occasionally marked with the modifier letter for unaspiration , a Unicode subscripts and superscripts, superscript equals sign: . Usually, however, unaspirated consonants are left unmarked: .


Voicelessness, Voiceless consonants are produced with the vocal folds open (spread) and not vibrating, and voiced consonants are produced when the vocal folds are fractionally closed and vibrating (modal voice). Voiceless aspiration occurs when the vocal folds remain open after a consonant is released. An easy way to measure this is by noting the consonant's voice onset time, as the voicing of a following vowel cannot begin until the vocal folds close. In some languages, such as Navajo phonology, Navajo, aspiration of stops tends to be phonetically realised as voiceless velar airflow; aspiration of affricates is realised as an extended length of the frication. Aspirated consonants are not always followed by vowels or other voiced sounds. For example, in Eastern Armenian, aspiration is contrastive even word-finally, and aspirated consonants occur in consonant clusters. In Wahgi language, Wahgi, consonants are aspirated only when they are in final position.


The degree of aspiration varies: the voice onset time of aspirated stops is longer or shorter depending on the language or the place of articulation. Armenian and Cantonese have aspiration that lasts about as long as English aspirated stops, in addition to unaspirated stops. Korean has lightly-aspirated stops that fall between the Armenian and Cantonese unaspirated and aspirated stops as well as strongly-aspirated stops whose aspiration lasts longer than that of Armenian or Cantonese. (See voice onset time.) Aspiration varies with place of articulation. The Spanish voiceless stops have voice onset times (VOTs) of about 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds, and English aspirated have VOTs of about 60, 70, and 80 ms. Voice onset time in Korean has been measured at 20, 25, and 50 ms for and 90, 95, and 125 for .


When aspirated consonants are doubled or gemination, geminated, the stop is held longer and then has an aspirated release. An aspirated affricate consists of a stop, fricative, and aspirated release. A doubled aspirated affricate has a longer hold in the stop portion and then has a release consisting of the fricative and aspiration.


Icelandic language, Icelandic and Faroese language, Faroese have consonants with
preaspirationIn phonetics, preaspiration (sometimes spelled pre-aspiration) is a period of Voice (phonetics), voicelessness or Aspiration (phonetics), aspiration preceding the closure of a voiceless obstruent, basically equivalent to an -like sound preceding the ...
, and some scholars interpret them as consonant clusters as well. In Icelandic, preaspirated stops Icelandic phonology#Aspiration and length contrasts (medial and final), contrast with double stops and single stops: Preaspiration is also a feature of Scottish Gaelic: Preaspirated stops also occur in most Sami languages. For example, in Northern Sami, the unvoiced stop and affricate phonemes , , , , are pronounced preaspirated (, , , ) in medial or final position.

Fricatives and sonorants

Although most aspirated obstruents in the world's languages are stops and affricates, aspirated fricatives such as , or have been documented in Korean language, Korean, though these are allophones of other phonemes. Similarly, aspirated fricatives and even aspirated nasals, approximants, and trills occur in a few Tibeto-Burman languages, in some Oto-Manguean languages, in the Hmongic language Hmu language, Hmu, and in the Siouan language Ofo language, Ofo. Some languages, such as Choni language, Choni Tibetan, have as many as four contrastive aspirated fricatives , and .

Voiced consonants with voiceless aspiration

True aspirated voiced consonants, as opposed to murmured (breathy-voice) consonants such as the that are common among the languages of India, are extremely rare. They have been documented in Kelabit language, Kelabit.


Aspiration has varying significance in different languages. It is either allophonic or phonemic, and may be analyzed as an underlying representation, underlying consonant cluster.


In some languages, such as English, aspiration is allophone, allophonic. Stops are distinguished primarily by voice (phonetics), voicing, and voiceless stops are sometimes aspirated, while voiced stops are usually unaspirated. English language, English voiceless stop consonant, stops are aspirated for most native speakers when they are word-initial or begin a stressed syllable. For instance, ''distend'' has unaspirated since it is not analyzed as two morphemes, but ''distaste'' has an aspirated middle because it is analyzed as ''dis-'' + ''taste'' and the word ''taste'' has an aspirated initial ''t''. Word-final voiceless stops are sometimes aspirated. Voiceless stops in Pashto are slightly aspirated prevocalically in a stressed syllable.


In many languages, such as Armenian language, Armenian, Korean language, Korean, Lakota language, Lakota, Thai language, Thai, Indo-Aryan languages, Dravidian languages, Icelandic language, Icelandic, Faroese language, Faroese, Ancient Greek, and the varieties of Chinese, tenuis and aspirated consonants are phoneme, phonemic. Unaspirated consonants like and aspirated consonants like are separate phonemes, and words distinctive feature, are distinguished by whether they have one or the other.

Consonant cluster

Alemannic German, Alemannic German dialects have unaspirated as well as aspirated ; the latter series are usually viewed as consonant clusters.


In Danish language, Danish and most southern varieties of German language, German, the Fortis and lenis, lenis consonants transcribed for historical reasons as are distinguished from their Fortis and lenis, fortis counterparts , mainly in their lack of aspiration.


French language, French, Dutch language, Standard Dutch, Afrikaans, Tamil language, Tamil, Finnish language, Finnish, Portuguese language, Portuguese, Italian language, Italian, Spanish language, Spanish, Russian language, Russian, Polish language, Polish, Latvian language, Latvian and Greek language, Modern Greek are languages that do not have phonemic aspirated consonants.



Standard Chinese (Mandarin) has stops and affricates distinguished by aspiration: for instance, , . In pinyin, tenuis stops are written with letters that represent voiced consonants in English, and aspirated stops with letters that represent voiceless consonants. Thus ''d'' represents , and ''t'' represents . Wu Chinese and Southern Min has a three-way distinction in stops and affricates: . In addition to aspirated and unaspirated consonants, there is a series of ''muddy consonants'', like . These are pronounced with slack voice, slack or breathy voice: that is, they are weakly voiced. Muddy consonants as Syllable#Chinese, initial cause a syllable to be pronounced with low pitch or four tones (Middle Chinese), ''light'' (陽 ''yáng'') tone.

Indian languages

Many Indo-Aryan languages have aspirated stops. Sanskrit, Hindustani language, Hindustani, Bengali language, Bengali, Marathi language, Marathi, and Gujarati language, Gujarati have a four-way distinction in stops: voiceless, aspirated, voiced, and breathy-voiced or voiced aspirated, such as . Punjabi language, Punjabi has lost breathy-voiced consonants, which resulted in a tone (linguistics), tone system, and therefore has a distinction between voiceless, aspirated, and voiced: . Some of the Dravidian languages, such as Telugu language, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada language, Kannada, have a distinction between voiced and voiceless, aspirated and unaspirated only in Indo-Aryan loanwords in Tamil, loanwords from Indo-Aryan languages. In native Dravidian words, there is no distinction between these categories and stops are underspecification, underspecified for voicing and aspiration.


Most dialects of Armenian language, Armenian have aspirated stops, and some have breathy-voiced stops. Classical Armenian, Classical and Eastern Armenian have a three-way distinction between voiceless, aspirated, and voiced, such as . Western Armenian has a two-way distinction between aspirated and voiced: . Western Armenian aspirated corresponds to Eastern Armenian aspirated and voiced , and Western voiced corresponds to Eastern voiceless .


Some forms of Greek language, Greek before the Koine Greek period are linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed as having aspirated stops. The Attic Greek, Classical Attic dialect of Ancient Greek had a three-way distinction in stops like Eastern Armenian: . These series were called , , (''psilá, daséa, mésa'') "smooth, rough, intermediate", respectively, by Koine Greek grammarians. There were aspirated stops at three places of articulation: labial, coronal, and velar . Earlier Greek, represented by Mycenaean Greek, likely had a labialized velar aspirated stop , which later became labial, coronal, or velar depending on dialect and phonetic environment. The other Ancient Greek dialects, Ionic Greek, Ionic, Doric Greek, Doric, Aeolic Greek, Aeolic, and Arcadocypriot Greek, Arcadocypriot, likely had the same three-way distinction at one point, but Doric seems to have had a fricative in place of in the Classical period, and the Ionic and Aeolic dialects sometimes lost aspiration (psilosis). Later, during the Koine Greek period, the aspirated and voiced stops of Attic Greek Lenition#Opening, lenited to voiceless and voiced fricatives, yielding in Medieval Greek, Medieval and Modern Greek. Cypriot Greek is notable for aspirating its inherited (and developed across word-boundaries) voiceless geminate stops, yielding the series /pʰː tʰː cʰː kʰː/.

Other uses


The term ''aspiration'' sometimes refers to the sound change of debuccalization, in which a consonant is lenition, lenited (weakened) to become a glottal stop or voiceless glottal fricative, fricative .

Breathy-voiced release

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

See also

*Aspirated h *Breathy voice *Implosive consonant *List of phonetic topics *Phonation *Preaspiration *Rough breathing *Smooth breathing *Tenuis consonant (Unaspirated consonant) *Voice onset time



*Cho, T., & Ladefoged, P., "Variations and universals in VOT". In ''Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages V: UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics'' vol. 95. 1997. {{DEFAULTSORT:Aspiration (Phonetics) Phonetics Consonants by airstream