1:02 AM 28th October 2023
Word Of The Week : Sibilant
Etymologically, ‘Sibilant’ comes to us from the Latin word sibilans
, the present participle of sibilare
meaning to hiss, or whistle.
When employed as an adjective, we are describing the making of a hissing sound as in, ‘his sibilant whispering’. The recondite world of phonetics undergirds our usage in that as a noun, sibilant
is the name for a specific speech sound whereby fricative consonants are produced by directing a stream of air with a speaker’s tongue towards their teeth.
In English, s, z, sh
, as in the sound of the s
are pure sibilants, with the affricates ch
also considered modified sibilants. As such a sibilant is a phoneme which combines a plosive with an immediately following fricative, or spirant sharing the same articulation.
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash
A lisp is a common speech impediment causing a person to misarticulate sibilants. As an Australian child in a snotty English school, I suffered from both a lisp and an incongruous accent…enforced elocution lessons were recalcitrantly endured!
Eschewing the dusty world of phonetics, think of this adjective as suggesting soft, hissing sounds…
A sibilant murmuring briefly pervaded the room…the thin, serpentine form quietly raised itself by dint of a rectilinear slither. A puny arm reached for the water glass sat before it on the grandiose lectern – “H eth 2 has been cancelled upon my order”. A glistening forked tongue flicked briefly into sight before disappearing into the dark environs of the PM’s smirking maw