In Danish, /v/ is semi-voiced, like a combination of [f] and [v], though /f/ does exist in Danish phonology.

Russian features general regressive assimilation of voicing, but this rule doesn't apply when /v/ stands as the last sound of the consonant cluster, so thus свет remains being [svʲet], rather than [zvʲet].

Is /v/ unique among fricatives concerning the above mentioned characteristics cross-linguistically? If it is, how to explain the uniqueness, especially from a phonetic perspective?

  • Danish /v/ is generally fully voiced [ʋ], though some devoicing may occur, especially initially. But any typically voiced consonant can be at least partly devoiced initially (though through a reduction of airflow rather than simply a lack of vocal-cord vibration), so /v/ isn’t special there. Unlike in Dutch, however, Danish /v/ is never the kind of strongly fricated [v] that sounds like a mixture of v and f in normal speech. Mar 17 at 0:04

I don't have an explanation from a synchronic phonetic perspective.

From a diachronic and phonological perspective, /v/ in many languages, including Danish and Russian, developed from earlier /w/. This is relevant to voicing because /w/ is not a fricative, but an approximant, and other approximants such as /l/, /r/, or nasals like /m, n/ tend to likewise be excluded as triggers of voicing assimilation.

(An unrelated-to-voicing example of how /v/ is distributed in ways that would be expected of /w/ is prothetic /v/ in word-initial position before /o/: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/282202824_The_use_of_prothetic_v_by_older_speakers_in_Prague)

Based on this, I would guess the most likely candidate for something showing similar behavior to /v/ would be another fricative that developed from a non-obstruent consonant. A possible example might be Czech ř or French r [ʁ], although apparently these are not necessarily fricatives (or at least not very strongly fricative) when voiced.

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