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Dental clicks: Wikis


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IPA – number 177
IPA – text ǀ
IPA – image {{{imagesize}}}
Entity ǀ
Kirshenbaum t!
About this sound Sound sample

The dental clicks are a family of click consonants found, as constituents of words, only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia. The tut-tut! (British English) or tsk! tsk! (American English) sound used to express disapproval or pity (typically as disapproval of the reason for pitying) is a dental click, although it isn't a speech sound in that context.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet ǀ, a vertical bar, represents either the forward articulation of these sounds or a tenuis dental click, depending on the school of phonetics. This is combined with a symbol for the rear articulation to represent other dental clicks. Attested dental clicks include:

  • [ǀ], [k͡ǀ], or [ǀ͡k] voiceless velar dental click (may also be aspirated, ejective, affricated, etc.)
  • [ɡ͡ǀ] or [ǀ͡ɡ] voiced velar dental click (may also be breathy voiced, affricated, etc.)
  • [ŋ͡ǀ] or [ǀ͡ŋ] nasal velar dental click (may also be voiceless, aspirated, etc.)
  • [q͡ǀ] or [ǀ͡q] voiceless uvular dental click
  • [ɢ͡ǀ] or [ǀ͡ɢ] voiced uvular dental click (commonly prenasalized)
  • [ɴ͡ǀ] or [ǀ͡ɴ] nasal uvular dental click
  • [ǀ͡ʔ] glottalized dental click

The last is what is heard in the sound sample at right, as non-native speakers tend to glottalize clicks to avoid nasalizing them.

Prior to 1989, [ʇ] was the IPA representation of the voiceless velar dental click. It is still occasionally used where the symbol [ǀ] would be confounded with other symbols, such as prosody marks.



Features of dental clicks:

The rear closure may be a voiced, nasal, ejective, or affricate, and have any of several phonations.

In English

English does not have a dental click (or any click consonant, for that matter) as a phoneme, but a plain dental click does occur as an interjection, usually written tsk or tut (and often reduplicated tsk-tsk or tut-tut), used to express commiseration, disapproval, irritation, or to call a small animal. Note, however, that while these words often represent a dental click and may be pronounced as such, they are also frequently pronounced /tɪsk/ or /tʌt/ (spelling pronunciations), and in such cases are not dental clicks.

In other languages

Dental clicks are common in Khoisan languages and the neighboring Nguni languages, such as Zulu and Xhosa. In the Nguni languages, the tenuis click is denoted by the letter c, the murmured click by gc, the aspirated click by ch, and the nasal click by nc. The prenasalized clicks are written ngc and nkc.

The Cushitic language Dahalo has four clicks, all of them nasalized: [ŋ̊ǀ, ŋǀ, ŋ̊ǀʷ, ŋǀʷ].

Hungarian does not have any click consonant as a phoneme, but the dental click does occur as an interjection, usually written cöccögés, used to express commiseration, disapproval, or irritation. German and French use the dental click in the exact same way as English, though it is usually rendered ts or tss (German), or "tut-tut" (French) in writing.

The dental click is used para-linguistically in several languages, mostly Middle-Eastern ones such as Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish, also Persian where it is transcribed as 'نچ'/'noch' (including Dari and Tajiki), and also some languages spoken in regions closer to, or in, Europe, such as Greek, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Romanian or Serbian to denote a negative response to a "yes or no" question. The dental click is sometimes accompanied by an upward motion of the head.[1][2]

See also




  • Pullum, Geoffrey K.; Ladusaw, William A. (1996). Phonetic Symbol Guide. University of Chicago Press. pp. 178. 



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