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Affricate consonants begin like stops (most often an alveovelar, such as or [d]) and that doesn't have a release of its own, but opens directly into a fricative such as [s] or [z] (or, in one language, into a trill).
The English sounds spelt "ch" and "j" (transcribed [ʧ] and [ʤ] in IPA), German and Italian z [ʦ] and Italian z [ʣ] are typical affricates. These sounds are fairly common in the world's languages, as are other affricates with similar sounds, such as those in Polish and Chinese.
Much less common are e.g. labiodental affricates, such as [pf] in German, or velar affricates, such as [kx] in Setswana (written kg) or High Alemannic Swiss German dialects (depending on the dialect also uvular [qχ]). Worldwide, only a few languages have affricates in these positions, even though the corresponding stop consonants are virtually universal. Also less common are alveolar affricates where the fricative is lateral, such as the [tɬ] sound found in Nahuatl and Totonac. Many Athabaskan languages (such as Chipewyan and Navajo) have series of coronal affricates which may be unaspirated, aspirated, or ejective in addition to being interdental/dental, alveolar, postalveolar, or lateral, i.e. [t̪θ], [t̪θʰ], [t̪θ’], [ʦ], [ʦʰ], [ʦ’], [ʧ], [ʧʰ], [ʧ’], [tɬ], [tɬʰ], and [tɬ’].
Affricates are often represented by the two sounds they consist of (e.g. [pf], [kx]). However, single signs for the affricates may be desirable, in order to stress that they function as unitary speech segments (i.e. as phonemes). In this case, the IPA recommends to join the two elements of the affricate by a tie bar (e.g. [p͡f], [k͡x]). The ligatures are available in Unicode for six common affricates [ʦ], [ʣ], [ʧ], [ʤ], [ʨ], and [ʥ].
Another method is to indicate the frication part of the affricate with a superscript, e.g. [tˢ], [tʃ].
In other phonetic transcription systems, such as the Americanist system, the affricates [ʦ], [ʣ], [ʧ], [ʤ], [tɬ], and [dɮ] (also written [dl]) are represented as [c], [j], [č], [ǰ], [ƛ], and [λ] respectively.
Affricates vs. stop-fricative sequences
Affricates can contrast with stop-fricative sequences. Examples include:
- Polish: [ʧ] in czysta 'clean (f.)' vs. [t ʃ] in trzysta 'three hundred',
- Klallam: [ʦ] in k’ʷə́nc 'look at me' vs. [t s] in k’ʷə́nts 'he looks at it'.
The difference is that in the stop-fricative sequence, the stop has a release of its own before the fricative starts. It may have a syllable boundary between the stop and the fricative (always in English).
Affricates and stop-fricative sequences are also distinguished phonemically. In English, [ʦ] and [ʣ] (as in nuts and nods) are considered to be sequences of a stop phoneme and a fricative phoneme even though they are phonetically affricates, because they may have a morpheme boundary in them (e.g. nuts is nut + s). The real English affricate phonemes /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ cannot have a morpheme boundary, and in order to show that they are not sequences of phonemes, they can be written with the ligatures or tie bars, or different characters /č/ and /ǰ/, avoiding the ambiguous /tʃ/ and /dʒ/.
List of affricates
- voiceless bialbial affricate [pɸ]
- voiceless labiodental affricate [pf]
- voiceless alveolar affricate [ʦ]
- voiced alveolar affricate [ʣ]
- voiceless alveolar lateral affricate [tɬ]
- voiced alveolar lateral affricate [dɮ]
- voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate [ʨ]
- voiced alveolo-palatal affricate [ʥ]
- voiceless postalveolar affricate [ʧ]
- voiced postalveolar affricate [ʤ]
- voiceless velar affricate [kx]
- voiceless uvular affricate [qχ]
- Montler, Timothy. (2005). [personal communication].
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