The voiceless alveolar sibilant is a common consonant sound in vocal languages. It is the sound in English words such as sea and pass, and is represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet with . It has a characteristic high-pitched, highly perceptible hissing sound. For this reason, it is often used to get someone's attention, using a call often written as sssst! or psssst!.
The voiceless alveolar sibilant is one of the most common sounds cross-linguistically. If a language has fricatives, it will most likely have . However, some languages have a related sibilant sound, such as , but no . In addition, sibilants are absent from Australian Aboriginal languages, where fricatives are rare; even the few indigenous Australian languages that have developed fricatives do not have sibilants. Sibilants (or at least, sibilant fricatives) are also absent from the so-called ceceo Spanish dialects of southern Spain (Andalusia), where replaces all historical consonants.
Features of the voiceless alveolar sibilant:
Comparison with the Spanish apico-alveolar sibilant
The term "voiceless alveolar sibilant" is potentially ambiguous in that it can refer to at least two different sounds. Various languages of northern Iberia (e.g. Astur-Leonese, Catalan, Basque, Galician, Portuguese and Spanish) have a so-called "voiceless apico-alveolar sibilant" which lacks the strong hissing of the described in this article, but rather has a duller, more "grave" sound quality somewhat reminiscent of a voiceless retroflex sibilant. Basque, Mirandese and some Portuguese dialects in northeast Portugal (as well as medieval Spanish and Portuguese in general) have both types of sounds in the same language.
There is no general agreement about what actual feature distinguishes these sounds. Spanish phoneticians normally describe the difference as (for the northern Iberian sound) vs. (for the more common sound), but Ladefoged and Maddieson claim that English /s/ can be pronounced apical, which is evidently not the same as the apical sibilant of Iberian Spanish and Basque, In addition, Adams asserts that many dialects of Modern Greek have a laminal sibilant with a sound quality similar to the "apico-alveolar" sibilant of northern Iberia.
Some authors have instead suggested that the difference lies in tongue shape. Adams describes the northern Iberian sibilant as "retracted". Ladefoged and Maddieson appear to characterize the more common hissing variant as , and some phoneticians (e.g. J. Catford) have characterized it as sulcal (which is more or less a synonym of "grooved"), but in both cases there is some doubt about whether all and only the "hissing" sounds in fact have a "grooved" or "sulcal" tongue shape.
als:Stimmloser alveolarer Frikativ ar: an:Fonema fricativo alveolar sonoro bn: br:Kensonenn kevig dre daravat divouezh ca:Fricativa alveolar sorda cs:Nezn l alveol rn frikativa de:Stimmloser alveolarer Frikativ es:Fricativa alveolar sorda fr:Consonne fricative alv olaire sourde ko: hr:Bezvu ni alveolarni frikativ it:Fricativa alveolare sorda ms:Geseran gusi tak bersuara nl:Stemloze alveolaire fricatief ja: pl:Sp g oska szczelinowa dzi s owa bezd wi czna pt:Fricativa alveolar surda ro:Consoan fricativ alveolar surd ru: fi:Soinniton alveolaarinen sibilantti sv:Tonl s alveolar frikativa th: uk: wa:Son S zh: