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Query Details

Query Subject:   Paralinguistic clicks
Author:   Mark Jones
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear Linguists,

it's common in the phonetic literature (e.g. John Laver (1994) "Principles of Phonetics": 175, Cambridge University Press) to see click consonants (velaric ingressive sounds) described as rare as contrastive units, but common paralinguistically. I'm aware of their phonological distribution, but I don't know of any detailed survey of paralinguistic usage.

In (British) English we have two paralinguistic clicks: the dental click ([/]), written as either "tut" or "tsk", and the lateral click ([//]), which as far as I'm aware has no written form. The dental "tut/tsk" usually occurs doubled, i.e. as "tut tut" or "tsk tsk" to indicate disapproval. The lateral click (also doubled) is the sound made to encourage a horse to move. There is, of course, also the bilabial click ([0]) which is a kiss. I don't include this as paralinguistic, because it is what it symbolises.

I'd like to conduct as wide a cross-linguistic survey as possible to determine:

1) whether clicks are widely used paralinguistically;
2) which clicks are used paralinguistically;
3) what the click sounds symbolise;
4) whether 'doubling' of the click is common, e.g. as in English "tut tut".

I'd also like to hear about writing conventions for the paralinguistic clicks. Does English have a preference for "tut" or "tsk", does [//] have a written form? What do other languages do?

I'd be very grateful if list users would contribute any information on their native or near-native languages to me at the following mail address (set up to keep my university mail volume down):

I'll post a summary, but I'd like to give users a few weeks to respond.

Many thanks!

Mark Jones
Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge
LL Issue: 14.762
Date posted: 17-Mar-2003


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