LINGUIST List 10.1217

Fri Aug 20 1999

Sum: Clicks

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <>


  1. Nick Reid, Clicks

Message 1: Clicks

Date: Thu, 19 Aug 1999 14:24:33 +1000
From: Nick Reid <>
Subject: Clicks

Recently I posted a query about clicks in Sesotho and Setswana, and
gratefully received responses from these people;

Katherine Demuth
Julian Lloyd
Daan Wissing
Larry Horn
Shamila Naidoo
Justus Roux
Tore Janson

It turns out I was wrong about Setswana - it doesn't have clicks at all.
The sound I was hearing is an alveolar closure released laterally with
glottalic (or ejective ) airstream.

Sesotho has a click at only a single place of articulation. This is
generally described as palato-alveolar, but Tore Janson suggests that "in
languages without any contrast in place of articulation there tends to be
considerable individual and/or social variation in the actual

This Sesotho click has plain, aspirated, and nasal manners of articulation,
the first two written as q and qh respectively. The nasal ?? no-one
mentioned its orthographic representation.

Both these languages have been studied in some detail. Katherine provided
these two references for general grammars;

Cole, D. T. 1955. An introduction to Tswana grammar. Cape Town: Longman.

Doke, C. M. & Mofokeng, S. M. 1957. Textbook of Southern Sotho grammar.
Cape Town: Longman.

and Shamila provided these two (undated) references that are specifically

An Introduction to Sesotho Phonetics
LJ Kock & RH Moeketsi
Marius Lubbe Publishers

An Introduction to Tswana Phonetics
JW Snyman
Marius Lubbe Publishers

Larry Horn included information about Xhosa;
"In the southern Bantu language of Xhosa, Q, X, and C are used for
domal/retroflex, lateral, and alveolar/dental clicks respectively. The
orthographic TL you mention for Setswana sounds like the Xhosa X click, and
the Q like the Xhosa C. Very confusing. As for the QH, at least in Xhosa
clicks can be (post)aspirated, and that's what the H indicates. (There are
also prenasalized and "voiced" clicks--the latter I'm told by phoneticians
is an articulatory misnomer, but phonologically such clicks, indicated by
an orthographic G before the position indicator (as prenasalized clicks are
marked by orthographic N), fall together with "real" voiced consonants in
their affect on the tone of a following vowel."

My thanks to all who replied. This list is really a fabulous tool for
finding prompt, friendly, and expert advice, isn't it.


Nick Reid

Dr Nicholas Reid
School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics
University of New England
Armidale 2351, AUSTRALIA

ph: +61 [0]2 6773 3400
fax: +61 [0]2 6773 3735
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