Are there any living speech varieties of Spanish (geographic, socio-economic) that pronounce the phoneme associated with the letter 'f' as [ϕ], as bilabial rather than labiodental? Just wondering since when I look at the Spanish consonants, /f/ looks like pretty much the only labiodental as opposed to bilabial /p/, while /θ/ and /t/ are both dental and /x/ and /k/ are both velar.

Also, the book From Latin to Spanish: Historical phonology and morphology of the Spanish Language by Paul M. Lloyd speculated about Early Latin 'f' being pronounced as [ϕ] in free variation or geographic variation with [f] in the Iberian peninsula.

EDIT: In Wikipedia as well, it says "A common pronunciation of /f/ in nonstandard speech is the voiceless bilabial fricative [ɸ], so that fuera is pronounced [ˈɸweɾa] rather than [ˈfweɾa].", but didn't specified which nonstandard speech.

  • 3
    Why the downvote?
    – user3503
    Jun 14, 2014 at 14:07
  • 1
    By saying /ϕ/, do you mean the same sound as in Japanese fu?
    – Alenanno
    Jun 14, 2014 at 15:16
  • 2
    @Alenanno: Yes, bilabial voiceless fricative. Jun 15, 2014 at 8:27
  • 2
    @Noble_Bright_Life Yes, but what I meant is that, if it happens in that context, it's not absurd to wonder if it happens somewhere else. :D
    – Alenanno
    Jun 15, 2014 at 11:59
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    @Noble_Bright_Life I mean that if Spanish has a sound which is bilabial, when most if not all other european languages have labiodental (v), then it might have other exceptions in a similar fashion, like the one you described.
    – Alenanno
    Jun 15, 2014 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


/f/ as [ϕ] in Andean, Palenquero, Caribbean, Puerto Rican Spanish

The Linguistics of Spanish - Andean Spanish - 2. Pronunciation

2.4 Pronunciation of /f/
/f/ is commonly articulated as a voiceless bilabial fricative (symbol: [ɸ]):

  • [ˈɸɾuta] fruta ‘fruit’

An epenthetic [w] is often inserted between [ɸ] and a following vowel:

  • [ɸwaˈmilja] familia ‘family’

The Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures Online 2

ɸ - voiceless bilabial fricative

Palenquero | Exists only as a minor allophone | Spanish

In words like fue 'be', fuego 'fire' and fuette 'strong' the bilabial fricative /f/ is common, and reflects dialectal variation in (rural) Spanish.

Dialect Density in Bilingual Puerto Rican Spanish-English Speaking Children

On the other hand, dialect features of Puerto Rican Spanish, such as the substitution of /ʃ/ for /ʧ/, /ŋ/ for /n/, or /ɸ/ for /f/ do not involve substituting a less complex sound for a more complex sound, as they are relatively similar in complexity (Jakobson, 1968).

Los sonidos del español: Spanish Language edition, By José Ignacio Hualde

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The Handbook of Hispanic Linguistics, edited by José Ignacio Hualde, Antxon Olarrea, Erin O'Rourke

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/sb/ as [ϕ] in Andalusian Spanish

Wikipedia - Fonología del español:

El sonido de *[ɸ] aparece en español de Andalucía como alófono de /B/ (b, v) después de -s:

  • desbaratar > [deɸaɾa'ta]
  • los buenos > [lɔ ɸwenɔ]

Y también ocasionalmente en secuencias como clubs, obscuro, substancia en ciertas variedades.

Wikipedia - Andalusian Spanish

In Andalusian and Murcian Spanish syllable-final /s/ is very unstable; often assimilated to [ɸ] before /b/ (/sb/ → [hβ] → [hɸ] → [ɸː]), as in

  • desbaratar*effaratar [ɛhɸaɾaˈta]~[ɛɸːaɾaˈta] ('to ruin, to disrupt')

or to [ɹ] (where ceceo or distinción occur) before /θ/ (/sθ/ → [ɹθ]), as in ascensor [aɹθẽ̞nˈso̞] ('lift').

The Linguistics of Spanish - Andalusian Spanish - 2. Pronunciation

2.2 Consonantal weakening

Syllable-final /s/ may be realized as [h] (as in [ehpaɲa] España), it may be elided (as in [laola] las olas ‘the waves’), or there may be a process of assimilation vis-à-vis the following consonant. When the following consonant is a voiceless obstruent or a sonorant, the output of the process is usually a geminate, as in [eloβippo] el obispo ‘the bishop’ or [mimmo] mismo ‘same’. With voiced obstruents, on the other hand, the output is usually a single (voiceless) consonant: [laxaʝinah] las gallinas ‘the hens’, [laɸolah] las bolas ‘the balls’.


Wikipedia - Voiceless bilabial fricative

enter image description here

4. Boyd-Bowman, Peter (1953), "Sobre la pronunciación del español en el Ecuador", Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica
5. Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988), Spanish in the Americas
6. Wetzels, W. Leo; Mascaró, Joan (2001), "The Typology of Voicing and Devoicing", Language
7. Coda obstruents and local constraint conjunction in north-central Peninsular Spanish
8. Pérez, Ramón Morillo-Velarde; Aguilar, Rafael Cano; Jiménez, Antonio Narbona (1998), El Español hablado en Andalucía

Wikipedia - Transcripción fonética del español con el AFI

En el dialecto andaluz, murciano, manchego y canario y también en las Antillas hispanohablantes la aproximante [β̞] se puede tornar fricativa sorda [ɸ] cuando va precedida de /s/ aspirada, [ʰ]; desbordar [dɛʰɸo̞ɾˈð̞a̠ɾ]~[dɛʰɸo̞ð̞ˈð̞a̠(ɾ)].

/f/ se pronuncia bilabial [ɸ], como la f de la romanización del japonés (Rōmaji). Es oído en algunas zonas aisladas de España y sobre todo en la América andina; fuera [ˈɸwe̞ɾa̠].


Yes, there is at least one to my knowledge. I have read (and heard) about this realisation of the phoneme. The variety that is commonly mentioned is Andean Spanish, and for this allophone, the main locations where it has been registered are some regions of Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador.

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