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:: fricatives ::

The fricatives are constituted by six elements of very diverse nature, distributed in five places of articulation:

Dorsal Apical
Palatal Velar Glotal

Three of them are sibilant fricative phonemes, correlates of their corresponding affricate phonemes. Basque therefore has the corresponding sibilant system:

  Fricatives Affricates
 Dorsal alveolar
 Apical alveolar

Like in the previous case, voiced articulations that vary equally in frequency and origin from one dialect to the other occur. The palatal [ʒ] appears in Souletin and in some Biscayan speeches as a result of the evolution of the voiced approximant/j/ in initial position, and as epenthesis in the cases of hiatus in some speeches, especially Biscayan. The next step in this evolution corresponds to the voiceless fricative [ʃ] that is, at present, maintained in the Salancen and Aezcoan speeches. Furthermore, in the Western dialects, it can also appear as epenthesis in certain heterosyllabic vowel sequences. On the other hand, voiced fricative sibilants occur in the Iparralde dialect in French lexical loans.

The Basque dialects have distinguished the three fricatives until recent times, although it was done in a less regular way than with the affricates. However, graphic substitution of the dorsal by the apical occur, especially in Biscayan as early as the XVI century. At present, the confluence of the two alveolar phonemes, especially in the dialects of Hegoalde, is an expanding process, already concluded in Biscayan. The result of this reduction is the apical fricative, as opposed to what happens to the affricates.

The consonant system of old Basque did not have the labiodental fricative/f/ that incorporated itself at different times in different dialects. At present, there is no homogeneous dialectal distribution, because it does not appear in the Eastern subdialect of Biscayan, in Guipuzcoan and in some speeches of the High Northern Navarrese, where it is generally substituted by a voiceless plosive bilabial in loans.

The velar fricative/x/ is an element of quite recent appearance in the language, as the first testimonies belong to the XVII century. Generally speaking, it comes form the evolution of the palatal approximant /j/ ([j > ʒ > ʃ > x]) although it can appear at the same time in other cases of diverse origin. This element occurs only in the dialect of Hegoalde, but also just with a distinctive value in Guipuzcoan and in some varieties of Biscayan and High Northern Navarrese.

The glottal fricative /ɦ/, common to all the dialects in old times, has been gradually lost in the last nine centuries. In the Hegoalde dialect this process ends in the XVI century, whereas in the Iparralde dialect it is conserved until the XX century. Nowadays, only the Souletin dialect maintains it with a distinctive value.
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