Khoekhoe Lingual Consonants

Lingual consonants are produced with airflow initiated by the tongue. They are more commonly referred to as velaric, a term that seems to have originated with Beach (1938). Beach classified sounds on the basis of their farthest back constriction: velaric for clicks, glottalic for implosives and ejectives, and pulmonic for sounds with no posterior constriction above the glottis. But the terms pulmonic and glottalic have come to designate a segment’s airstream (i.e., the articulator that causes air to flow), making velaric inappropriate by extension, since it is the tongue and not the velum that causes airflow in clicks. It has, therefore, been argued (e.g., Miller et al. 2009) that lingual is a more appropriate term.

All languages make use of the pulmonic airstream, and glottalic consonants are not unusual cross-linguistically, but Khoesan languages are among the very few with lingual consonants. They are produced when air is sucked into a cavity created between the front and back of the tongue. Click types are named for the tongue's front constriction: dental clicks are produced with the tongue tip against the top teeth, central and lateral alveolar clicks are produced with the front of the tongue on the alveolar ridge (they differ in how the constriction is released) and palatal clicks have a front constriction that is often in the vicinity of the hard palate at the time of their release.

Each click type can be produced with a number of manner and phonation contrasts, just like pulmonic stops (e.g., [t d tʰ dʱ t͡s n]). Note that this treatment of click modification obviates the need for the more traditional idea of an “accompaniment” (see Miller et al. 2009 and Brugman 2009 for discussion). In Khoekhoe, there are relatively few such contrasts, at least by Khoesan standards. Each of the four click types can be produced in five different ways: plain, affricated, nasal, aspirated nasal and glottalized nasal. These contrasts are shown in the following IPA-style table, where segments are arranged in columns by anterior place of articulation and in rows by manner of articulation. The phonation contrast among the nasal clicks are indicated by their placement in the cell.

Lingual Consonants
Dental Central
Alveolar
Lateral
Alveolar
Palatal
Stops  ǀ  ǃ  ǁ  ǂ
Affricates  ǀ͡χ  ǃ͡χ  ǁ͡χ  ǂ͡χ
Nasals  ŋǀ   ŋ̊ǀʰ   ŋ̊ǀˀ   ŋǃ   ŋ̊ǃʰ   ŋ̊ǃˀ   ŋǁ   ŋ̊ǁʰ   ŋ̊ǁˀ   ŋǂ   ŋ̊ǂʰ   ŋ̊ǂˀ 

Words illustrating each of the lingual consonants are listed below. In each case, the consonant is given first, then a word with that consonant in Khoekhoe orthography, IPA transcription and English translation. Click the play button to hear a recording.

Dental clicks
[ǀ] ǀgai [ǀə̏i] ‘to grow strong’
[ŋǀ] ǀnai [ŋǀə̏ì] ‘long ago’
[ŋ̥ǀˀ] ǀai [ŋ̥ǀˀə̏ì] ‘splatter (water)’
[ŋ̥ǀʰ] ǀhoe [ŋ̥ǀʰȍe] ‘talk about (s.o.)’
[ǀ͡χ] ǀkhai [ǀ͡χə́i̋] ‘to be absent’
Alveolar clicks
[ǃ] ǃgam [ǃám̋] ‘murder’
[ŋǃ] ǃnam [ŋǃám̋] ‘make hole into’
[ŋ̥ǃˀ] ǃam [ŋ̥ǃˀám] ‘fit into’
[ŋ̥ǃʰ] ǃhom [ŋ̥ǃʰőm] ‘sip hot liquid’
[ǃ͡χ] ǃkham [ǃ͡χám] ‘fight’
Lateral clicks
[ǁ] ǁgora [ǁȍɾa] ‘to struggle to feet’
[ŋǁ] ǁnora [ŋǁőɾa] ‘pester’
[ŋ̥ǁˀ] ǁora [ŋ̥ǁˀóɾa̋] ‘to give birth to’
[ŋ̥ǁʰ] ǁhora [ŋ̥ǁʰőɾa] ‘to peck up’
[ǁ͡χ] ǁkhore [ǁ͡χóɾe]] ‘to wish for’
Palatal clicks
[ǂ] ǂgoab [ǂȍap] ‘mud’
[ŋǂ] ǂnaob [ŋǂáőp] ‘stain’
[ŋ̥ǂˀ] ǂoab [ŋ̥ǂˀóap] ‘wind’
[ŋ̥ǂʰ] ǂhoab [ŋ̥ǂʰȍap] ‘blue’
[ǂ͡χ] ǂkhoab [ǂ͡χòap] ‘elephant’

Clicks in connected speech

Some clicks are pronounced differently when they follow a vowel. In phrase-initial position, aspirated and glottalized nasal clicks are produced with voiceless nasal airflow prior to the click's burst, but post-vocalically the closure tends to be at least partially voiced, producing what is sometimes called an "intrusive nasal". The degree of voicing in such closures is subject to prosodic conditioning, and is nearly always less than that found in modal nasal segments. Examples of the different click types in post-vocalic position are given below.

Intervocalic Palatal Clicks
[ǂ] nē ǂgoab [nȅe ǂòȁp] ‘this mud’
[ŋǂ] nē ǂnaob [nȅe ŋǂàop] ‘this stain’
[ŋ̥ǂˀ] nē ǂoab [nȅe ŋ̥ǂˀòȁp] ‘this wind’
[ŋ̥ǂʰ] nē ǂhoab [nȅe ŋ̥ǂʰòȁp] ‘this blue’
[ǂ͡χ] nē ǂkhoab [nȅe ǂ͡χòap] ‘this elephant’