I know we’ve covered the topic recently, and I wasn’t going to post about The Economist‘s longish article on difficult languages, even though it has a lot of interesting examples and doesn’t get too gee-whiz about it, but when I hit this part I couldn’t resist:
For sound complexity, one language stands out. !Xóõ, spoken by just a few thousand, mostly in Botswana, has a blistering array of unusual sounds. Its vowels include plain, pharyngealised, strident and breathy, and they carry four tones. It has five basic clicks and 17 accompanying ones. The leading expert on the !Xóõ, Tony Traill, developed a lump on his larynx from learning to make their sounds. Further research showed that adult !Xóõ-speakers had the same lump (children had not developed it yet).
A language that gives you a lump on your larynx just from speaking it—now that’s badass. (Thanks, John!)