Unvoiced dental fricative

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θ

thin /θɪn/

The unvoiced dental fricative is a consonant sound consisting of an unvoiced dental fricative. This sound is represented by the phoneme /θ/; it may also be referred to as an unvoiced th sound. It forms a voiced-unvoiced pair with the voiced dental fricative sound.


Common words[edit | edit source]

Initial pronunciation of /θ/:

  • thanks - theaterAmE - theatreBrE - theme - theory - therapy - thick - thin - thing - think - thirteen - thirst - thirty - thorough - thought - thousand - threat - three - threw - throat - through - throw - thumb - Thursday

Final pronunciation of /θ/:

  • bath - beneath - birth - both - breath - death - depth - earth - faith - forth - growth - health - length - mathAmE - month - mouth - north - path - south - strength - teeth - tooth - truth - wealth - worth - youth

Middle pronunciation of /θ/:

  • anything - everything - nothing - something
  • athlete - author - Dorothy - Ethiopia /iːθiːˈoʊpiːə/ - ethnic - healthy - hypothesis - Martha - mathematics - mathsBrE - method - monthly - strengthen - wealthy

Plurals[edit | edit source]

Irregular plurals of words ending in /θ/, as /ðz/

  • baths - mouths - paths - youths

Several plurals of words ending in /θ/ are pronounced as /ðz/ and also as /θs/

  • oaths - truths - wreaths

/θ/ or /ð/[edit | edit source]

  • booth - with

Homophones[edit | edit source]

  • threw - through

Anticipated pronunciation difficulties depending on L1[edit | edit source]

Preconceived ideas and other interferences from L1 obviously interfere in many cases with how students perceive - and pronounce - sounds/words in English. The following section aims to point out some of the most typical difficulties teachers and students may encounter regarding pronunciation.

Spanish[edit | edit source]

Spain[edit | edit source]

Many speakers don't distinguish clearly between /θ/ and /ð/ and when they see "th" tend to pronounce it [θ], a sound which corresponds to the letter "z" in Spanish. This happens also when speaking Spanish: Madrid's inhabitants are notorious for pronouncing [ma'driθ].

Another difficulty is the tendency to pronounce the initial letter "c" as /θ/ in words like "city" and "centre".

Latin America[edit | edit source]

The /θ/ sound doesn't exist, and speakers tend to replace it with /s/ or /t/. However, if another phoneme must be chosen it has been suggested to use /f/,[1] for example pronounce "think" as */fɪŋk/ instead of */sɪŋk/.

Italian[edit | edit source]

The /θ/ sound doesn't exist, and speakers tend to replace it with /f/.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Geoff Lindsey, The British English vowel system, comment dated March 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm.