Voiceless

Voiceless

Overview
In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx
Larynx
The larynx , commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles and mammals involved in breathing, sound production, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. It manipulates pitch and volume...

 vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation
Phonation
Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology...

, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

, and that voicelessness is the lack of phonation.

The International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 has distinct letters for many voiceless and modally voiced
Modal voice
Modal voice is the vocal register used most frequently in speech and singing in most languages. It is also the term used in linguistics for the most common phonation of vowels...

 pairs of consonants (the obstruent
Obstruent
An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants....

s), such as [p b], [t d], [k ɡ], [q ɢ] [f v], [s z].
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Encyclopedia
In linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, voicelessness is the property of sounds being pronounced without the larynx
Larynx
The larynx , commonly called the voice box, is an organ in the neck of amphibians, reptiles and mammals involved in breathing, sound production, and protecting the trachea against food aspiration. It manipulates pitch and volume...

 vibrating. Phonologically, this is a type of phonation
Phonation
Phonation has slightly different meanings depending on the subfield of phonetics. Among some phoneticians, phonation is the process by which the vocal folds produce certain sounds through quasi-periodic vibration. This is the definition used among those who study laryngeal anatomy and physiology...

, which contrasts with other states of the larynx, but some object that the word "phonation" implies voicing
Voice (phonetics)
Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics and phonology to characterize speech sounds, with sounds described as either voiceless or voiced. The term, however, is used to refer to two separate concepts. Voicing can refer to the articulatory process in which the vocal cords vibrate...

, and that voicelessness is the lack of phonation.

The International Phonetic Alphabet
International Phonetic Alphabet
The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

 has distinct letters for many voiceless and modally voiced
Modal voice
Modal voice is the vocal register used most frequently in speech and singing in most languages. It is also the term used in linguistics for the most common phonation of vowels...

 pairs of consonants (the obstruent
Obstruent
An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants....

s), such as [p b], [t d], [k ɡ], [q ɢ] [f v], [s z]. In addition, there are diacritics for voicelessness, 0325 and 030A Diacritics are typically used with letters for prototypically voiced sounds, such as vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s and sonorant consonants: [ḁ], [l̥], [ŋ̊].

Voiceless vowels and other sonorants


Sonorant
Sonorant
In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant is a speech sound that is produced without turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; fricatives and plosives are not sonorants. Vowels are sonorants, as are consonants like and . Other consonants, like or , restrict the airflow enough to cause turbulence, and...

s are those sounds, such as vowels and nasal consonant
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

s, which are voiced in most of the world's languages. However, in some languages sonorants may be voiceless, usually allophonically
Allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

. For example, the Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

 word sukiyaki
Sukiyaki
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish in the nabemono style.It consists of meat which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin...

is pronounced [su̥kijaki]. This may sound like [skijaki] to an English speaker, but the lips can be seen compressing for the [u̥]. Something similar happens in English with words like peculiar [pʰə̥ˈkjuːliɚ] and potato [pʰə̥ˈteɪtoʊ].

Sonorants may also be contrastively voiceless, not just voiceless due to their environment. Tibetan
Tibetan language
The Tibetan languages are a cluster of mutually-unintelligible Tibeto-Burman languages spoken primarily by Tibetan peoples who live across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent, including the Tibetan Plateau and the northern Indian subcontinent in Baltistan, Ladakh,...

, for example, has a voiceless /l̥/ in Lhasa, which sounds similar to, but is not as noisy as, the voiceless lateral fricative
Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiceless dental, alveolar, and postalveolar fricatives is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is K...

 /ɬ/ in Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

, and which contrasts with a modally voiced /l/. Welsh contrasts several voiceless sonorants: /m, m̥/, /n, n̥/, /ŋ, ŋ̊/, and /r, r̥/, the latter represented by "rh".

In the Moksha language
Moksha language
The Moksha language is a member of the Finno-Volgaic subdivision of the Uralic languages with about 500,000 native speakers. Moksha is the majority language in the western part of Mordovia....

 there is even a voiceless palatal approximant
Palatal approximant
The palatal approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is '...

 /j̊/ (written in Cyrillic as <йх> jh) along with /l̥/ and /r̥/ (written as <лх> lh and <рх> rh). The last two have also palatalized counterparts /lʲ̥/ and /rʲ̥/ (<льх> and <рьх>). In the Kildin Sami language
Kildin Sami language
Kildin Sami is a Sami language spoken by approximately 600 people on the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia...

 there is also this /j̊/ <ҋ>.

On the other hand, although contrastively voiceless vowels have been reported several times, they have never been verified (L&M 1996:315).

Lack of voicing contrast in obstruents


Many languages lack a distinction between voiced and voiceless obstruent
Obstruent
An obstruent is a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow, causing increased air pressure in the vocal tract, such as [k], [d͡ʒ] and [f]. In phonetics, articulation may be divided into two large classes: obstruents and sonorants....

s (plosives, affricates, and fricatives). This is nearly universal in Dravidian languages
Dravidian languages
The Dravidian language family includes approximately 85 genetically related languages, spoken by about 217 million people. They are mainly spoken in southern India and parts of eastern and central India as well as in northeastern Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iran, and...

 and Australian languages, but is widely found elsewhere, for example in Mandarin Chinese, Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

, Finnish
Finnish language
Finnish is the language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland Primarily for use by restaurant menus and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. It is one of the two official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a...

, and the Polynesian languages
Polynesian languages
The Polynesian languages are a language family spoken in the region known as Polynesia. They are classified as part of the Austronesian family, belonging to the Oceanic branch of that family. They fall into two branches: Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian. Polynesians share many cultural traits...

. Consider Hawaiian
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

, which has a /p/ and /k/, but no /b/ or /ɡ/. In many such languages (though not in Polynesian), obstruents are realized as voiced in voiced environments, such as between vowels or between a vowel and a nasal, and voiceless elsewhere, such as at the beginning or end of the word or next to another obstruent. Usually these sounds are transcribed with the voiceless IPA letters, though in Australia the letters for voiced consonants are sometimes used.

It appears that voicelessness is not a single phenomenon in such languages. In some, such as the Polynesian languages, the vocal cords are required to actively open to allow an unimpeded (silent) airstream. This is sometimes called a breathed (/ˈbrɛθt/) phonation (not to be confused with breathy voice
Breathy voice
Breathy voice is a phonation in which the vocal cords vibrate, as they do in normal voicing, but are held further apart, so that a larger volume of air escapes between them. This produces an audible noise...

). In others, such as many Australian languages, voicing ceases during the hold of a plosive (few Australian languages have any other kind of obstruent) because airflow is insufficient to sustain it, and if the vocal cords open this is due to passive relaxation. Correspondingly, Polynesian plosives are reported to be held for longer than Australian plosives, and are seldom voiced, whereas Australian plosives are prone to having voiced variants (L&M 1996:53). In Southeast Asia, when stops occur at the end of a word they are voiceless because the glottis is closed, not open, and so these are said to be unphonated (have no phonation) by some phoneticians who considered "breathed" voicelessness to be a phonation.