Khoekhoe Pulmonic Consonants

Pulmonic consonants are produced with airflow initiated by the lungs. Khoekhoe’s inventory of pulmonic consonants is straightforward, with four places of articulation and no phonation contrasts. It is shown in the following IPA-style table, arranged in columns by place of articulation and in rows by manner of articulation. Since there are no phonation contrasts, each cell contains only one segment.

Pulmonic Consonants
Labial Dental Velar Glottal
Stops p t k ʔ
Affricates t͡s k͡x
Fricatives s x h
Nasals m n
Approximants ɾ

Though the inventory itself is straightforward, Khoekhoe does have strict constraints on the distribution of segments within morphemes. The first segment in a root (i.e., a noun, verb or adjective) must be an obstruent or a nasal. If a root has a medial consonant, it must be an approximant (including the [β] allophone of [p]) or a nasal. The situation for non-roots is complex (see Brugman 2009 for details), but for the most part, particles and suffixes are single, light syllables that begin with pulmonic consonants. Because suffixes and particles can begin with either [t] and [ɾ], these segments must be analyzed as distinct phonemes. This is not the case for [p] and [β], which are allophones.

Words illustrating each of the pulmonic 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.

Root-initial position
[p] [pa̋a] ‘to cook porridge’
[t] [tȁa] ‘to step’
[k] [kȁà] ‘to trick’
[ʔ] ā [ʔáa] ‘to drink’
[t͡s] tsā [t͡sȁà] ‘to lick’
[k͡x] khao [k͡xáő] ‘to dig’
[s] [sa̋a] ‘to miss’
[x] [xáa] ‘to attack’
[h] [hȁa] ‘to arrive’
[m] [mȁa] ‘to give’
[n] nao [náő] ‘to take a handful’

Root-medial position
[β] tsawab [t͡sȁβàp] ‘bile’
[ɾ] tsarab [t͡sȁɾàp] ‘dust cloud’
[m] tsamab [t͡sȁmàp] ‘tsama’
[n] danas [tȁnàs] ‘leader (f.)’