Voiceless bilabial plosive

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox IPA The voiceless bilabial plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is p. The voiceless bilabial plosive in English is spelled with 'p', as in pit or speed.

is missing from about 10% of languages that have a . (See [[Voiced velar plosive|]] for another such gap.) This is an areal feature of the "circum-Saharan zone" (Africa north of the equator, including the Arabian peninsula). It's unknown how old this areal feature is, and whether it might be a recent phenomenon due to Arabic as a prestige language (Arabic lost its [p] in prehistoric times), or whether Arabic was itself affected by a more ancient areal pattern. 


Features of the voiceless bilabial plosive:

Varieties of the voiceless bilabial plosive

IPA Description
plain p
aspirated p
palatalized p
labialized p
unreleased p
voiced p
ejective p

In English

English has both aspirated and plain [p], but they are allophones.

When [p] occurs at the beginning of a word or a stressed syllable, like in print, support, or potato, then it is always aspirated. When it occurs at the beginning of an unstressed syllable that isn't at the beginning of a word, like in occupant, vapid, or keeper, then it is always unaspirated. When [p] occurs in a consonant cluster following [s], like in spin, sprain, or suspend, then it is always unaspirated. When it occurs at the end of a word, like in tip, wasp, or telescope, then it is usually unaspirated, and if the word is at the end of an utterance, then the [p] is often unreleased.

In other languages

The [p] sound is a very common sound cross-linguistically. Most languages have at least a plain [p], and some distinguish more than one variety. Many Indian languages, such as Hindi, have a two-way contrast between aspirated and plain [p].


Georgian has aspirated and ejective [p]. They are distinct phonemes, not allophones. Aspirated p is spelled with ფ. Ejective p is spelled with პ .


As in English, in German, plain and aspirated [p] are allophones.


In Ancient Greek, plain and aspirated [p] were separate phonemes, represented by the letters pi (π) and phi (φ) respectively. In Modern Greek there is no aspirated [p], phi having come to be pronounced [f].


Arabic has no [p], original Semitic [p] (as attested to in Akkadian) having become [f] in prehistoric times. Native speakers of Arabic usually render foreign [p] as [b] in both speech and writing, so that the Greek name Paulus becomes Arabic Bolus, for example.

See also

Sounds of the world's languages
International Phonetic Alphabet
Consonants | Vowels
Places of articulation Manners of articulation

Bilabial | Labiodental | Labial-velar | Dental | Alveolar | Postalveolar | Alveolo-palatal | Retroflex | Palatal | Velar | Uvular | Pharyngeal | Epiglottal | Glottal

Nasals | Plosives | Fricatives | Affricates | Laterals | Approximants | Flaps/Taps | Trills | Ejectives | Implosives | Clicks

de:Stimmloser bilabialer Plosiv

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