Is there an IPA symbol for the sound you might make when you burn yourself or someone tells you a story about an injury they have—when you suck your breath quickly through your teeth with your tongue pressed forward and to the roof of your mouth? What is the name of this sound?

  • Could you cite a language that has this phoneme? Apr 5, 2012 at 16:20
  • @OtavioMacedo In my experience, it is translingual (probably related to the fact, that as you said in your answer, it is paralinguistic). I have perceived it in Americans and Asians.
    – Kazark
    Apr 5, 2012 at 17:49
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    It's not a phoneme. It's a phatic gesture. English words do not contain any click consonants.
    – jlawler
    Apr 5, 2012 at 19:48
  • @jlawler but surely it can still be a phoneme, he's not asking for the phoneme in English. I'm pretty sure the symbol used for the kissing sound is a circle with a dot inside it. Apr 5, 2012 at 21:21
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    @DangerFourpence Phonemes (to the extent they exist) are language-specific. The sounds are simply "phones". IPA is ambiguously a phonetic and a phonemic alphabet, alas. It'd be more proper to ask, what is the name of this sound? Apr 5, 2012 at 23:45

3 Answers 3


The type of airstream mechanism you describe (air flowing through the mouth and nose into the lungs rather than the other way around), is known as ingressive. It is denoted in IPA by a down arrow (↓) placed next to the consonant that has this feature.

By your description of the sound, I suppose it could be considered a pulmonic ingressive voiceless alveolar fricative and its symbol in the IPA would be [s↓]. But I don't think there is any language in which that sound is used for linguistic purposes, as opposed to paralinguistic purposes, such as reacting to a story.

According to the Wikipedia:

The only attested use of a phonemic pulmonic ingressive is a lateral fricative in Damin, a ritual language formerly used by speakers of Lardil in Australia. This can be written with the extended version of the International Phonetic Alphabet as [ɬ↓].

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    Pulmonic ingressives are also produced in disordered speech, where the notation ↓ might be used more commonly than in general linguistic usage. Apr 5, 2012 at 17:55
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    See also this rather specific page! ingressivespeech.info Apr 5, 2012 at 17:55
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    For me, the "oh-that-musta-hurt" sound isn't [s↓] but rather [h̪͆↓], where [h̪͆] is a bidental fricative. That is, I don't make the sound by sucking air between my tongue-tip and alveolar ridge, I do it by sucking air between my teeth. Anyway, yes, it is highly unlikely that there is any language that uses this sound for linguistic purposes, however you transcribe it. :) Apr 7, 2012 at 16:55

Pulmonic-ingressive voiceless bidenti-alveolar lateral fricative would be my guess. I notice that I produce this sound with my jaw shut and my teeth clamped together, so the frication is at least partially bidental (hence the nonce designation "bidenti-alveolar," modeled after the accepted "denti-alveolar").

We can narrowly transcribe this phone as [h̪͆͡ɬ↓]. (If you can't read that, it's supposed to represent a coarticulated voiceless bidental fricative and voiceless alveolar lateral fricative with ingressive airstream.)

The only source I can offer is a very informal video from somebody with an MA in linguistics, unfortunately.

  • 1
    [h̪͆͡ɬ↓]... it's pretty obvious
    – Mitch
    Feb 12, 2018 at 16:28

Probably you want the "pipe" character, ǀ, which represents the voiceless dental click.

(I know — it looks too much like a lowercase L or a one; but you wanted IPA.)

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    Thank you for your answer. However, I didn't want a click; more of an "s" sound.
    – Kazark
    Apr 5, 2012 at 17:50
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    You may not want it, but you got it. From Wikipedia: "The easiest clicks for English speakers are the dental clicks written with a single pipe, ǀ. They are all sharp (high-pitched) squeaky sounds made by sucking on the front teeth. A simple dental click is used in English to express pity or to shame someone, and sometimes to call an animal, and is written tsk! in American English, or tut-tut! in British English." As requested.
    – jlawler
    Apr 5, 2012 at 19:50
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    No. The very thing you quoted says it's used to call an animal. The fricative noise to indicate pain or surprise is not used to call an animal.
    – Aerlinthe
    Apr 5, 2012 at 21:01
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    Sure, if you say so.
    – jlawler
    Apr 5, 2012 at 22:12
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    @jlawler, the dental click and the ingressive lateral fricative are two different sounds, used differently in American English (at least my own dialect, and I suspect Kazark's as well). The dental click expresses a sentiment like "That's a real shame.", while the ingressive fricative expresses a sentiment like "That's gotta hurt!". (The dental click can also be used to call small animals, when repeated quickly.)
    – Joe
    Apr 6, 2012 at 18:53

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