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Author: Bonny Sands


Click consonants have proven to be a challenge to researchers over the years. This chapter describes the various ways of transcribing them and various instrumental techniques for studying them. This chapter provides a survey of approaches that have been used to study various aspects of clicks, including their phonetic description, acquisition, and diachronic development. Readers will be introduced to little-known contrasts, such as ejective vs. glottalized clicks, and uvular vs. velar clicks. New evidence is provided for three click types that are not yet recognized by the IPA, the fricated palatal laminal /⨎/, the retroflex /ǃǃ/, and the forward-released lateral /ǀǀǀ/. Trends for future avenues of research are also discussed.

In: Click Consonants
Editor: Bonny Sands
Click Consonants is an indispensable volume for those who want to understand the linguistics of clicks. Contributions include cutting edge research on the phonetic and phonological characteristics of clicks, as well as on sound changes involving clicks, and clicks in perception, in L2 acquisition, and in apraxia of speech.

Contributors are Wm. G. Bennett, Catherine T. Best, Hilde Gunnink, Dan Dediu, E.D. Elderkin, Anne-Maria Fehn, Sean Fulop, Florian Lionnet, Timothy K. Mathes, Kirk Miller, Scott Moisik, Michael Proctor, Bonny Sands, Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL) members (Adam Lammert, Asterios Toutios, Shrikanth Narayanan, Yinghua Zhu), Mollie Steyn, Anita van der Merwe, Richard Wright.

Click consonants are one of the hallmarks of “Khoisan” languages of southern Africa. They are also found in some Bantu languages, where they are usually assumed to have been copied from Khoisan languages. We review the southern African Bantu languages with clicks and discuss in what way they may have obtained these unusual consonants. We draw on both linguistic data and genetic results to gain insights into the sociocultural processes that may have played a role in the prehistoric contact. Our results show that the copying of clicks accompanied large-scale inmarriage of Khoisan women into Bantu-speaking communities and took place in situations where the Khoisan communities may have had relatively high prestige. In the Kavango-Zambezi transfrontier region, these events must have occurred at an early stage of the Bantu immigration, possibly because small groups of food producers entering a new territory were dependent on the autochthonous communities for local knowledge.

In: Language Dynamics and Change


Our understanding of clicks has been limited in some important respects by the technologies available for phonetic research. New insights into click production are available through the use of real-time Magnetic Resonance Imaging, which offers dynamic information about the midsagittal configuration of the entire vocal tract, including the velum, tongue root, and larynx. Aspects of click phonetics which have previously proven difficult to study are examined in Khoekhoegowab and siSwati, as well as in paralinguistic click production by a beatboxer. These data demonstrate the utility of real-time MRI for phonetic characterization of non-pulmonic consonants, as a method which provides global information about vocal tract configuration and coordination of laryngeal and supra-glottal articulation.

In: Click Consonants