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English fricatives have five articulatory positions:
  1. labio-dental: f,v - fine, vine
  2. dental: þ,ð - think, this
  3. alveolar: s,z - price, prize
  4. post-alveolar: , - mission, vision
  5. glottal: h - hard
These positions are shown in RED.

(Compare this figure with the figures showing articulations on pp.50-51, in Roach, figs. 14a b c.)

There are some important differences between English and Icelandic fricatives, as the following table shows (fortis to the left, lenis to the right of each pair):
You can click on the table to navigate.

  • Notice the LACK of Icelandic alveolar and post-alveolar fricatives,
  • and the LACK of English palatal and velar fricatives.
  • In this table there are also the two affricates , and . See below

  • An important point to remember throughout this section is that the English LENIS (voiced) sounds v and ð are much STRONGER than their Icelandic counterparts. (The Icelandic sounds are in fact more like approximants than fricatives.)

    Labio-dental fricatives, f and v   

    One point to remember is that the Icelandic LETTER f is often used to represent the SOUND v. This is not so in English - f is f, and v is v. So for instance the words life and live, leaf and leave, are quite different in English - remember there is a tendency in "Icelandic English" to pronounce them the same:
    - - Remember - different vowel length, too!
    - - Make sure your f is unvoiced.
    Another point to remember is that English v is a much STRONGER sound than Icelandic v, which often almost disappears in words like próf and prófa. English v is LABIO-DENTAL: bottom lip FIRMLY against top teeth. Keep the top lip out of the way, otherwise you'll make it sound like w (See w )
    And make sure you're not losing it in words like over and clever.

    Dental fricatives, þ and ð    

    Many learners of English have difficulties with these sounds, but not Icelanders. Remember however that the little words
    the - this - these - that - those - they - them - their - there - then - than - thus
    start with ð-, not þ-.

    Like v, English ð is much STRONGER than its Icelandic counterpart. Icelanders often lose the ð-sound in words like:

    maður, áður, móðir, blaðið
    Don't let this happen in English words like
    rather, either, mother, bathe

    Alveolar and post-alveolar fricatives   

    These are the s- sounds, sometiomes called sibilants. Icelandic has only one, the unvoiced s, which causes a lot of problems when they try to pronounced the other English ones. We'll deal with these problems on a separate page

    Palatal and velar fricatives   

    These sounds don't occur inEnglish (although Scottish English has x in 'loch'.)

    (The Icelandic consonants , x and are those heard in the words hjól, sagt and saga.)

    Note that in this table, Icelandic j is classed as a fricative. This is the usual practice of Icelandic phoneticians. In English, however, we class it as an approximant (see ). We have seen that the lenis Icelandic fricatives are, generally speaking, much weaker than their English counterparts: they, too, might well be called approximants.

    The glottal fricative, h   

    No problems here, at least not for Icelanders.


    There are no affricates in Icelandic, but if you've mastered the postalveolar fricatives they should cause no problems.

    Affricates start with a plosive (t or d) and end with a fricative ( or ).
    English affricates are

    fortis , and
    as heard in the words church and judge.
    Don't forget to make a clear distinction of voicing: remember to distinguish
    large and larch   ,   
    purge and perch   ,   
    not only by the voicing of , but also by clipping the vowel before !

    We'll come back to afficates in the section on sibilants

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