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FRICATION

Definition:

Replacing an approximant with a fricative.

Comment:

Frication occurs whenever an approximant consonant (a glide /w j/ or a liquid /r l/) is substituted by a fricative consonant /f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ h/.

Examples:

you /ju/ → /zu/

red /rɛd/ → /ðɛd/

 

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Recall that there are four approximants in English (two glides /w j/ and two liquids /r l/) and nine fricatives /f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ h/.  The distribution of these sounds is summarized in Table 10.

Table 10. Distribution of fricatives and approximants

Table 10.  Distribution of fricatives and approximants.

Frication is the name given to the phonological process in which an approximant (glide /w j/ or liquid /l r/) is substituted by a fricative. Consider the following example.

 

why

/waɪ/

/vaɪ/

 

Here, the approximant /w/ undergoes frication through substitution by the fricative /v/. As all approximants are voiced, if there is to be mirroring of voicing we would expect the substituting consonant to be voiced also. In fact, this is the case in the above example: the voiced approximant /w/ is substituted by the voiced fricative /v/. All approximants can appear in syllable-initial position in English, leading to the possibility of syllable-initial frication, e.g.

 

we

/wi/

/vi/

look

/lʊk/

/zʊk/

red

/rɛd/

/ðɛd/

you

/ju/

/zu/

 

In British English, the only approximant that can appear in syllable-final position is the liquid approximant /l/. This gives rise to syllable-final frication, e.g.

 

ball

/bɔl/

/bɔz/

hole

/həʊl/

/həʊv/

 

In contrast, in American English, the liquid /r/ can appear in syllable-final position, such as in the words chair /ʧɛr/ and car /kɑr/. However, it is still unlikely that it will be subject to frication, even when it does appear in syllable-final position. It is more likely to undergo a process known as vowelization. This is when a liquid consonant in syllable-final position is replaced with a vowel, e.g.

 

chair

/ʧɛr/

/ʧɛə/

car

/kɑr/

/kɑ/

deer

/dɪər/

/dɪə/

 

Of course, this type of vowelization is not a process generally observed in standard British English which does not allow the liquid /r/ to appear in syllable-final position.

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