Xhosa Clicks.

A couple of videos for those who have always wondered how to make those wonderful click sounds and what they sound like in sentences:
Xhosa Lesson 2. How to say “click” sounds.
Xhosa Tongue Twister Lesson in South Africa.
Thanks, Songdog!

Comments

  1. For me, the most difficult thing about clicks has always been to avoid prenasalizing them.

  2. Trond Engen says:

    I tried prenasalizing a click. Now my mouse is all slimy.

  3. Greg Lee says:

    I taught myself (my own version of) Zulu clicks from William Smalley’s Manual of Articulation, to use in articulatory phonetics courses. Lots of fun, and also useful. I listened to the three tongue twisters on youtube, and the third one with the retroflex clicks (which sound nicest) might be this one:

    “these are xhosa ones i know : iqaqa laqikaqikeka eqaqeni laphantsu’ qhaw’ka uqhoqhoqho ( the skunk roled down the hill and almost broke hie windpipe) ” from http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070430160611AAFz2vU

    The guy on youtube translates “squirrel” instead of skunk (which I’ll guess is “iqaqa”). The “q” is the retroflex click — the bottle pop sound.

    I don’t understand why there would be any tendency to prenasalize the clicks.

  4. Treesong says:

    I’ve seen the translation ‘zorilla’ = ‘striped polecat’. Skunks being the New World equivalent.

  5. I don’t understand why there would be any tendency to prenasalize the clicks.

    Because if you don’t make sure the pulmonic flow from the preceding vowel is shut off before you make the click, air will continue to flow out through the nose. This is particularly true of truly retroflex (i.e. linguo-velar) clicks, which are even rarer than other clicks. (Per WP, “retroflex click” usually refers to postalveolar clicks.) The trick is to avoid the Scylla of nasalization without falling into the Charybdis of glottalization ….

  6. Trond Engen says:

    For a while there I was afraid that that joke would be the final words of the thread.

    Both speakers say that there are three clicks in Xhosa, but Wikipedia lists 18, six forms of each, three of them nasal, one both nasal and glottalised. Are those phonologically conditioned rather than phonemic? Or does that depend on the analysis?

  7. Greg Lee says:

    Because if you don’t make sure the pulmonic flow from the preceding vowel is shut off before you make the click, air will continue to flow out through the nose.

    If the air continues to flow out the nose, you get a nasal click — what’s the problem? You can raise the velum or not independently of the velar closure for the click. Or so it would seem.

  8. I am familiar only with nasal plosives or “sneezes”, as referred to by Trond. What is a nasal click ? When someone gets punched on the nose and it breaks, a kind of click or snap is audible. But perhaps that belongs more to morphology than phonemics.

  9. Sneezes are more explosives than plosives.

    “Nasal click” is shorthand for “nasalized click” as I described above: air flows over the vocal chords, vibrating them in the usual way, and out the nose while the tongue executes the click. The problem is that click languages contrast purely oral clicks with nasal(ized) ones, and if you nasalize the click when you should not, you have said the wrong thing. If there is a vowel before and after the click, as is common, you need to cut off voicing precisely while you make the click. Most of us who use clicks only expressively (“tsk, tsk”) aren’t used to doing that, though we have no problem doing the same thing when saying [aka] or [ata], for example.

    There is no IPA symbol for sneezing or honking, though there are symbols for snoring, lisping, lip-smacking, teeth-gnashing, and tongue-sucking. These are not actually used in any language, only in the representation of the speech of people with certain speech disorders.

  10. Snoring is among the symptoms of certain speech disorders ? I can imagine that someone who shares a bed with a snorer, and so gets little sleep, may develop speech disorders during the day – for instance teeth-gnashing. So “passive snoring” may be what is meant.

  11. No, some people make snore-like noises while speaking because they have cleft palates.

  12. Ah, I’ve never heard that. Over the years I have talked with a few people who I assumed had a not entirely intact palate – but it made their speech sort of muffled and breathy, nothing I would call snoring. I suppose I just haven’t encountered a severe case of that.

  13. Greg Lee says:

    Stu, for a click, you make a [k] with the back of your tongue and also make some closure in the front of your mouth, e.g. with the tip of your tongue. Then you jerk the back of your tongue backwards so as to create some brief suction in your mouth just before the front closure is released, so a little air rushes into your mouth. Behind the [k] closure, your vocal tract is free to do whatever you want, so you can have nasal or non-nasal clicks, voiced or non-voiced, aspirated or not, glottalized or not.

  14. Greg, thanks for the tips. I can get a click out, but the next part – “behind the [k] closure, your vocal tract is free to do whatever you want” – is not true in my case. I can confirm only that it seems free to do whatever it wants.

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