I am working on a language and I am trying to bring it down to seventeen consonants. One of the ways I am trying to do that is by removing all voiced fricatives. Is this even reasonable?
According to the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), a large database of various world languages' structural properties gathered from descriptive materials like grammars, around a third of the surveyed languages have a voicing contrast in plosives but not fricatives, and another third have no voicing contrast in either plosives or fricatives. Based on this, it seems that by raw numbers you're more likely to have only voiceless fricatives than you are to have both voiced and voiceless fricatives.
There are even languages with no fricatives at all. The UPSID sample contains 31 of them, making 6.8% of the sample.
FUll output of my UPSID query:
The 'fricative' sounds do not occur in these languages:
ALAWA (26) ANDAMANESE (24) ANGAATIHA (21) ARRERNTE (30) AUCA (21) BANDJALANG (16) BARDI (24) BORORO (20) BURARRA (21) DERA (17) DINKA (32) DIYARI (25) DYIRBAL (16) EKARI (15) GARAWA (22) GUGU-YALANDYI (16) KALKATUNGU (23) MALAKMALAK (19) MBABARAM (24) MURINHPATHA (25) NASIOI (13) NGARINJIN (24) NGIYAMBAA (18) NUNGGUBUYU (23) PANARE (25) WARAY (21) WESTERN DESERT (20) WIK-MUNKAN (18) YANYUWA (32) YIDINY (16) YOLNGU (23)
These 31 languages are 6.87% of all languages in UPSID.
Querying for languages without voiced fricatives gives "These 222 languages are 49.22% of all languages in UPSID". So the absence of voiced fricatives is a quite common feature of natural languages.
Sure. A lot of languages don't distinguish voicing in fricatives. This doesn't necessarily mean that fricatives in such languages will be unvoiced, but most of them will probably do that.
Voiced fricatives are actually rare, humans don't seem to like them for some reason.
Of course, you could also count languages that don't distinguish voicing at all, but many of these make some other distinction like aspiration.
There are some languages out there with phoneme inventories even smaller than what you're aiming for. Piraha and Rotokas come to mind. Creoles in general tend to have minimalistic phoneme inventories too.