Update: 2016-10-31 05:04 PM -0500


The Human Voice


by Joe K. Tun (aka U Kyaw Tun), M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Not for sale. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR.

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Contents of this page

Fricative production
True Fricatives -- hissers and hushers


Passages worthy of note:
In Romabama in {ic~sa} , /c/ in the coda is {s}, and /c/ in the onset is {sa.} = Skt-Dev च ca ; and,  in <scissors> ,  /s/ in the coda is {S}, and /s/ in the onset is {sa.} = Skt-Dev ष sa .

UKT notes :
assimilation fortition glottal consonants lenition
voiceless interdental fricative {a.}/{tha.}

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Fricative production

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fricative download 070911

Follow the following links also:
aeroacoustic production of fricative speech sounds http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2001ASAJ..115.2633K
Differences in fricative production between children and adults: evidence from an acoustic analysis of /sh/ and /s/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=3343442&dopt=AbstractPlus

Fricatives (or spirants) are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These are the lower lip against the upper teeth in the case of [ f ], or the back of the tongue against the soft palate in the case of German [x], the final consonant of <Bach>. This turbulent airflow is called frication. A particular subset of fricatives are the sibilants (sometimes referred to as stridents. See strident consonants, and strident vowels in my notes.). When forming a sibilant, one still is forcing air through a narrow channel, but in addition the tongue is curled lengthwise to direct the air over the edge of the teeth. English [s], [z], [ ʃ ], and [ ʒ ] are examples of this.

Sibilant fricatives: (UKT: take note of the diacritics)
[s] vl. coronal sibilant; [z] vd. coronal sibilant | [s] ejective coronal sibilant
[s̪] vl. dental sibilant; [z̪] vd. dental sibilant
[s̺] vl. apical sibilant; [z̺] vd. apical sibilant
[s̠] vl. posalveolar sibilant (laminal) ; [z̠] vd. postalveolar sibilant (laminal)
[ ʃ ] vl. palato-alveolar sibilant (domed, partially palatalized) ; [ʒ] vd. palato-alveolar sibilant (domed, partially palatalized)
[ɕ] vl. alveolo-palatal sibilant (laminal, palatalized) ; [ʑ] vd. alveolo-palatal sibilant (laminal, palatalized)
[ʂ] vl. retroflex sibilant (apical or sub-apical) ; [ʐ] vd. retroflex sibilant (apical or sub-apical)

UKT: Bur-Myan {sa.} of r2c1 position in the akshara matrix has the pronunciation of /s/ as syllablenset. However, it can also have the pronunciation of /c/ in the coda in consonant clusters of words like {ic~sa} 'truth'. Almost the same situation is met in English clusters like <success> /sək'ses/. Since only one {sa.} is available in Bur-Myan, we can say as a stop-gap measure that in {ic~sa}, that the coda (killed {sa.}), {s} is /c/ (shifted from /k/), and that in onset {sa.} is /s/.
   The situation was under control until how to represent English words like <scissors> /ˡsɪz.əz/. Bur-Myan needs dedicated graphemes to represent sibilant fricatives which are dubbed "hissers" and "hushers" by UNIL. - UKT101029
To re-summarize again: we have only one grapheme {sa.}, and two phonemes, /c/ - a palatal plosive-stop, and, /s/ - dental fricative, to be represented.

First, let's look at our problem from IPA perspective:

From: Consonants: Online Phonetics Course, Department of Linguistics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
http://www.unil.ch/ling/english/phonetique/table-eng.html ; http://www.unil.ch/ling/english/index.html (downloaded before 1999)

   [s] Voiceless alveolar fricative (hisser). The apico-alveolar hissers are produced by bringing the end of the tongue close to the alveolar ridge. Fig.3.17.  These hissers can be divided into three categories, according to the precise part of the tongue that comes into play. Coronal implies the front margin of the tongue (as in English), apical the very tip (as in Castilian Spanish), and post-dental the front part of the tongue body (as in French). The quality of the sound is noticeably altered; the IPA uses diacritical marks to indicate distinctions of this magnitude. In terms of general tongue shape, this articulation qualifies as a hisser. (UNIL)
   [z] Voiced alveolar fricative (hisser). Same as above, but with vibration of the vocal cords. The remarks made for the voiceless sound are equally valid for the voiced variant. (UNIL)

All sibilants are coronal, but may be dental, alveolar, postalveolar or palatal (retroflex) within that range. However, at the postalveolar place of articulation the tongue may take several shapes: domed, laminal, or apical, and each of these is given a separate symbol and a separate name. Prototypical retroflexes are sub-apical and palatal, but they are usually written with the same symbol as the apical postalveolars. The alveolars and dentals may also be either apical or laminal, but this difference is indicated with diacritics rather than with separate symbols.

Therefore, in Romabama:
in {ic~sa} , /c/ in the coda is {s}, and /c/ in the onset is {sa.} = Skt-Dev च ca
in <scissors> ,  /s/ in the coda is {S}, and /s/ in the onset is {sa.} = Skt-Dev ष sa

Central non-sibilant fricatives: (UKT: take note of the diacritics)
[ɸ] vl. bilabial fricative; [β] vd. bilabial fricative
[f]  vl labiodental fricative ; [v] vd labiodental fricative
[θ̼] vl linguolabial fricative ; [̼] vd linguolabial fricative
   [UKT: /θ/ is the Bur-Myanmar {a.} known as a "thibilant". It is the same as English digraph <th> in words like <thin>.
[θ̟] vl interdental fricative ; [̟] vd interdental fricative
[θ] vl dental nonsibilant fricative ; [] vd dental nonsibilant fricative
[θ̠], [ɹ̝̊] vl alveolar nonsibilant fricative ; [̠], [ɹ̝] vd alveolar nonsibilant fricative
[] vl palatal fricative ; [ʝ] vd palatal fricative
[x] vl velar fricative ; [ɣ] vd velar fricative
[ɧ] vl palatal-velar fricative (articulation disputed)
[χ] vl uvular fricative
[ħ] vl pharyngeal fricative (UKT: {ha.}? See sonorant in my notes)
[ʜ] vl epiglottal fricative

UKT: One question that has kept my interest in phonetics and linguistics alive, is the pronunciation and transcription  [θ] {tha.}/{a.}. See voiceless interdental fricative {tha.} in my notes.

Lateral fricatives:
[ɬ] vl coronal lateral fricative ; [ɮ] vd coronal lateral fricative
[ɬ̢] vl retroflex lateral fricative
[ʎ̥] vl palatal lateral fricative (needs a raising diacritic: [ʎ̝̊])
[ʟ̝̊] vl velar lateral fricative

Symbols used for both fricatives and approximants:
[ʁ] voiced uvular fricative
[ʕ] voiced pharyngeal fricative
[ʢ] voiced epiglottal fricative

No language distinguishes voiced fricatives from approximants at these places, so the same symbol is used for both. For the pharyngeals and epiglottals, approximants are more numerous than fricatives. A fricative realization may be specified by adding the uptack to the letters, [ʁ̝, ʕ̝, ʢ̝]. Likewise, the downtack may be added to specify an approximant realization, [ʁ̞, ʕ̞, ʢ̞].

[h] voiceless glottal transition
[ɦ] breathy-voiced glottal transition

The glottal "fricatives" are actually unaccompanied phonation states of the glottis, without any accompanying manner, fricative or otherwise. However, they are called fricatives for historical reasons.

In addition, [ʍ] is usually called a " voiceless labial-velar fricative", but it is actually an approximant. True doubly-articulated fricatives may not occur in any language; but see voiceless palatal-velar fricative for a putative (and rather controversial) example.


See table of consonants (UKT: this link will take you online to IPA table) for a table of fricatives in English.

Ubykh language may be the language with the most fricatives (twenty-seven in all), some of which do not have symbols or diacritics in the IPA. This number actually outstrips the number of all consonants in English (which has 24 consonants). By contrast, some languages have no phonemic fricatives at all. This is a typical feature of Australian Aboriginal languages, where the few fricatives that exist result from changes to plosives or approximants, but also occurs in some indigenous languages of New Guinea and South America that have especially small numbers of consonants. However, whereas [h] is entirely unknown in indigenous Australian languages, most of the other languages without true fricatives do have [h] in their consonant inventory.

Voicing contrasts in fricatives are largely confined to Europe, Africa and Western Asia. Languages of South and East Asia, such as the Dravidian and Austronesian languages, typically do not have such voiced fricatives as [z] and [v] which are very familiar to European speakers. These voiced fricatives are also relatively rare in indigenous languages of the Americas. Overall, voicing contrasts in fricatives are much rarer than in plosives, being found only in about a third of the world's languages as compared to 60 percent for plosive voicing contrasts.

UKT: The English fricative <th> has both vl. /θ/ and vd. // pronunciations. Similarly, Bur-Myan, r6c5 {tha.}/{a.} has two pronunciations, vl. and vd. The link /θ/ will take you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_dental_fricative 080315 in which it is given that two Myanmar languages, Burmese: suṃ [θʊ̃]  {on:} , "three" and S'gaw Karen: th33 [θ˧], "three" , have this sound. It is interesting to note that two First Nation American languages of Algonquian , the Kickapoo (United States): nethwi [nɛθwi], "three" and Shawnee: nthwi [nθwɪ], "three" , not only have this sound, but the word with this sound means "three". Of course, the English word with this sound is <three> /θriː/. What an extraordinary coincidence! I hope none in his right mind would suggest that these languages all have a common ancestor! The word, for "three" in Pal-Myan is {ti.} with a /t/ instead of a /θ/.
   It is strange that the transcriptions given for these languages has <th>, whereas for Burmese, Wikipedia has given with an <s> as suṃ [θʊ̃]. [{You will notice that the in IPA transcript, the onset consonant is given as [θ] which shows that the transcription given by Wikipedia 080315 is totally unacceptable. Notice that {on:} rhymes with <loan> /lǝʊn/ (US) /loʊn/.}]

About 15 percent of the world's languages, however, have unpaired voiced fricatives i.e. a voiced fricative without a voiceless counterpart. Two-thirds of these, or 10 percent of all languages, have unpaired voiced fricatives but no voicing contrast between any fricative pair.

This phenomenon occurs because voiced fricatives have developed from lenition of plosives or fortition of approximants. This phenomenon of unpaired voiced fricatives is scattered throughout the world, but is confined to nonsibilant fricatives with the exception of a couple of languages which have [ ʒ ] but lack [ ʃ ] (it is worth noting that several languages have the voiced affricate [dʒ] but lack [ ʧ ]). The fricatives which occur most often without a voiceless counterpart are, in order of ratio of unpaired occurrences to total occurrences, [ʝ], [β], [], [ʁ] and [ɣ].

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True Fricatives
hissers and hushers

UKT: A reader familiar with my works would notice that my interest in phonetics had its beginning in the pronunciation of Pali-Myanmar <th>/<a> which has become the <s> in Pali-Latin or the so-called International Pali. When I recite my prayers I would, as all in Myanmar would, say in Pali-Myanmar {boad~Dm a.ra.Nn}, whereas those who have been tainted by Sanskrit would say {boad~Dm sa.ra.Nn} all the while claiming that his pronunciation is the correct one.

Which is more authentic? I had started out with that question. And now I must insist that my pronunciation is the same as those of the Magadhi speakers, to which linguistic group Buddha had belonged. Leaving aside this contentious issue, there seem to be two kinds of speakers who can pronounce the <th> (the thibilant group) and those who can only pronounce the <s> (the sibilant group). So I how should I describe the sound had been my quest until I come across the term "the hissers and the hushers" in University of Lausanne (UNIL) http://www.unil.ch/ling/page24535.html 080316

The following is almost entirely from UNIL website.

  Among the fricatives below are ones described as hissers and hushers. The realization of a hisser requires a high degree of tension in the tongue: a groove is formed along the whole length of the tongue, in particular at the place of articulation where the air passes through a little round opening. The hushers are produced similarly, but with a shallower groove in the tongue, and a little opening more oval than round. The lips are often rounded or projected outwards during the realization of a husher. The sound clips are also from the UNIL website. .

Hissers: <)) {sa.} [s];   <)) {za.} [z]
Hushers: <)) {hya.} [ ʃ ]; { -}  <)) [ ʒ ]

UKT: If you listen carefully, the "pronunciation" of {sa.} [s] is actually that of {hsa.} [sʰ]. It should be noted that one of failures of IPA in representing the Asian sounds, is its failure to provide separate symbols for the so-called allophones.

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UKT notes


From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assimilation_(linguistics) download 070913

UKT: How important is assimilation within my life time in spoken Burmese written in Myanmar? From the text which follows you will see that for educators and other educated Burmese-Myanmar, who speak clearly and distinctly, assimilation is not important. Please remember, my aim is to come up with a reliable means of transliteration between Burmese-Myanmar and English-Latin, and I am not concerned with colloquial speech.

Assimilation is a typical sound change process by which the phonetics of a speech segment becomes more like that of another segment in a word (or at a word boundary), so that a change of phoneme occurs. A common example of assimilation would be <don't be silly> where the /n/ and /t/ in <don't> become /m/ and /p/, where said naturally in many accents and discourse styles. A related process is coarticulation where one segment influences another to produce an allophonic variation, such as vowels acquiring the feature [nasal] before nasal consonants when the velum opens prematurely or /b/ becoming labialised as in "boot". This article will describe both processes under the term, assimilation.

The physiological or psychological mechanisms of coarticulation are unknown, but we often loosely speak of a segment as "triggering" an assimilatory change in another segment. In assimilation, the phonological patterning of the language, discourse styles and accent are some of the factors contributing to changes observed.

There are four configurations found in assimilations: an increase in phonetic similarity between adjacent segments and between segments separated by one or more intervening segments; and the changes may be in reference to a preceding segment or a following one. Although all four occur, changes in regard to a following adjacent segment account for virtually all assimilatory changes (and most of the regular ones). And assimilations to an adjacent segment are vastly more frequent than assimilations to a non-adjacent one. (These radical asymmetries might contain hints about the mechanisms involved, but they are unobvious.)

If a sound changes with reference to a following segment, it is traditionally called "regressive assimilation"; changes with reference to a preceding segment are traditionally called "progressive". Many find these terms confusing, as they seem to mean the opposite of the intended meaning. Accordingly, a variety of alternative terms have arisen not all of which avoid the problem of the traditional terms. Regressive assimilation is also known as right-to-left or anticipatory assimilation. Progressive assimilation is also known as left-to-right or perseveratory or preservative or lag assimilation. The terms anticipatory and lag will be used here.

Very occasionally two sounds (invariably adjacent) may influence one another in reciprocal assimilation. When such a change results in a single segment with some of the features of both components, it is known as coalescence or fusion.

Some authorities distinguish between partial and complete assimilation, i.e., between assimilatory changes in which there remains some phonetic difference between the segments involved, and those in which all differences are obliterated. There is no theoretical advantage to such a classification, as one of the following examples will show.

Tonal languages may exhibit tone assimilation (tonal umlaut, in effect), while sign languages also exhibit assimilation when the characteristics of neighbouring phonemes may be mixed. ...

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortition download 070913

Fortition is a consonantal mutation in which a sound is changed from one considered 'weak' to one considered 'strong.' For example, a fricative or an approximant may become a plosive (i.e. [v] becomes [b] or [r] becomes [d]). An approximant is also considered to be affected by fortition if it becomes a fricative.

An example of fortition is where the extremely common approximant sound [ j ] {ya.} has changed into the very rare voiced fricative [ ʝ ] in a number of indigenous languages of the Arctic, such as the Eskimo-Aleut languages. In some varieties of Spanish this change has also occurred. In most continental Germanic languages, the [ ] ({tha.} ?) sound has hardened to become [ d ]).

It is the opposite of lenition. Fortition is a much rarer sound change than lenition, and is not found in many languages.

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glottal consonants [ʔ] [ɦ] [h]

UKT: What are glottal consonants? How do they compare to aspirated consonants? In both types of consonants there is a relationship with {ha.}. They are represented in IPA by three characters:

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glottal_consonant 080313

[ʔ] voiceless glottal stop -- Hawaiian okina [ʔo.ˈki.na]
[ɦ] breathy voiced glottal "fricative" -- Czech Praha [pra.ɦa]
[h] voiceless glottal "fricative"  -- English hat  [ht]

UKT: Of the three glottal consonants, only one is represented in Bur-Myan. It is {ha.} and is equivalent to English <h>. Though, the glottal stop [ʔ] probably does not occur in Bur-Myan, MLC gives the pronunciation of syllables of the type CV ending in killed consonants with the (') mark which could be taken for "glottal stop".

Glottal consonants are consonants articulated with the glottis. Many phoneticians consider them, or at least the so-called fricatives, to be transitional states of the glottis without a point of articulation as other consonants have; in fact, some do not consider them to be consonants at all. However, the glottal stop at least behaves as a typical consonant in languages such as Tsou language.
   The "fricatives" are not true fricatives. This is a historical usage of the word. They instead represent transitional states of the glottis (phonation) without a specific place of articulation. [h] is a voiceless transition. [ɦ] is a breathy-voiced transition, and could be transcribed as [h̤]. [{Notice (U0324) diaeresis below <h>. }]

The glottal stop [ʔ] [question mark without a dot] occurs in many languages. Often all vocalic onsets are preceded by a glottal stop, for example in German. The Hawaiian language writes the glottal stop [{because it occurs at the beginning of the syllable, I wonder if it would be more appropriate to call it "glottal plosive"?}] as an opening single quote . Some alphabets use diacritics for the glottal stop, such as hamza <ء> in the Arabic alphabet; in many languages of Mesoamerica, the Latin letter <h> is used for glottal stop.

hamza also hamzah n. 1. A sign in Arabic orthography used to represent the sound of a glottal stop, transliterated in English as an apostrophe. [Arabic from hamaza to urge on, goad] -- AHTD

Because the glottis is necessarily closed for the glottal stop, it cannot be voiced.

UKT: Since no amount of descriptive language is nearly as good as actual listening, read Tips for pronouncing glottalized consonants in Chumash languages and listen.
   From: http://www.chumashlanguage.com/pronun/pronun-06-fr.html 080313
For a description of the Chumash people see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chumash_people  080313

Pronouncing a glottalized consonant can pose a challenge. Here are some tips on how to do it, along with sound clips so you can hear it.
   Close off your air as if youre lifting something heavy. Pronounce the consonant sound. Then continue breathing out. 
   <)) (ka-run-tg.mp3) Say k    a. Say it faster and run the consonant and glottal stop together into ka<.
   As you say the word, pronounce the consonant then glottal stop and then the vowel.
   <)) (suku-run-tg3.mp3) Say suk  u. Do this quickly enough and the consonant and glottal stop run together
   Stick an extra vowel between the consonant and the glottal stop, then say the word as you make the extra vowel weaker and weaker until the consonant and glottal stop run together.
   <)) (suku-run-tg2.mp3) Say sukuu, then sukau, suku and finally suku. Do this quickly enough and the consonant and glottal stop run together.

UKT: We know how we say the Burmese-Myanmar {ka.} and {hka.}, which the English hear as [k] and [kʰ] -- they heard {hka.} as an aspirated {ka.}. But we know we articulate {hka.} not with just an aspiration, but as a phoneme in its own right. For the moment, let's just say that {ha.} behaves like English <h> in the onset and a "glottal stop" in the coda -- the {ha.t}. The trouble is we don't really know what the {ha.t} sounds like.

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From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenition download 070912

Lenition is a kind of consonant mutation that appears in many languages. Along with assimilation, it is one of the primary sources of the historical change of languages.

Lenition means 'softening' or 'weakening' (from Latin lenis, the root of 'lenient'), and it refers to the change of a consonant considered 'strong' into one considered 'weak' (fortislenis). Common examples include:

voicing or sonorization, as in [f] → [v]

affrication or spirantization (turning into an affricate or a fricative), as in [t] → [ts] or [s]

debuccalization (loss of POA), as in [s] → [h]

degemination, as in [k:] → [k]

deglottalization, such as [k] → [k], etc.

Ultimately, consonants may be lost completely. Lenition, then, can be seen as a movement on the sonority scale from less sonorous to more sonorous. ...

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voiceless interdental fricative {a.}/{tha.}

UKT: I have been interested why {a.} has become {sa.} in International Pali aka Pal-Latin. Among the prominent Western Pali scholars are Germans such as Friedrich Max Mller (1823-1900), and since their L1 (the spoken German) lacks the sound of English <th> in <thin>, {tha.},  they could only "hear" {sa.}: this reminds me of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Unable to hear {a.}, they "typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative" {sa.}. - UKT101030

From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_dental_fricative 070911

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the IPA  that represents this sound is θ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta". It is familiar to English speakers as the <th> in <thing>.

UKT: Burmese-Myanmar {tha.}/{a.} can be described as thibilant to differentiate it from sibilants:
   A thibilant is a term occasionally found for an interdental fricative. ("Interdenta" means between upper and lower front teeth.)
   An example of a thibilant is the sound transcribed by the IPA symbol theta [θ]).
   -- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thibilant download 070914
It should be noted that POAs for /θ/ {a.} and /s/ {sa.} are very close. /θ/ is best described as a inter-dental fricative (in between or almost touching both upper and lower teeth). However, when I pronounce {sa.}, I do not raise my tongue-tip to touch the alveolar ridge, but lower it to touch the root of the lower teeth. I still have to meet a real phonetician to describe my {sa.}. -- UKT 070914

The dental fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.

Many languages, including widely-spoken ones such as German, Portuguese, Spanish in the Americas, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese, as well as all Slavic languages and some dialects of English , lack this sound. [Did Wiki mean /θ/?]. Speakers of such languages and dialects sometimes have difficulty producing or distinguishing it from similar sounds, and typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative, vl. dental plosive, or a vl. labiodental fricative.

Features of the vl. dental fricative:
Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence.
Its POA is dental which means it is articulated with the tongue on either the lower or the upper teeth, or both.
Its phonation type is vl., which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords.
It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the middle of the tongue, rather than the sides.
The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.

Occurrence: (UKT: though Wiki gives examples across languages, I have only taken what I am interested in):
English: thin [θɪn]
Welsh: saith /saiθ/, "seven"
Burmese: suṃ [θʊ̃], "three" (UKT: Burmese transcription is wrong! It is {on:}, and should be thum instead of sum -- thum is still wrong.)
S'gaw Karen: th33 [θ˧], "three"

UKT: It is interesting that there are languages which use /θ/ in words for number <three>:
Western Neo-Aramaic: a [θloːθa], "three"
Kickapoo (United States): nethwi [nɛθwi], "three"
Shawnee: nthwi [nθwɪ], "three"

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End of TIL file