Dental click

Dental click
(plain velar)
IPA Number177, 201
Entity (decimal)ǀ​ʇ
Unicode (hex)U+01C0 U+0287
Braille⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)⠹ (braille pattern dots-1456)
Audio sample
Voiced dental click
ᶢǀ ᵈǀ
Dental nasal click
ᵑǀ ⁿǀ

Dental (or more precisely denti-alveolar)[1] clicks are a family of click consonants found, as constituents of words, only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.

In English, the tut-tut! (British spelling, "tutting") or tsk! tsk! (American spelling, "tsking") sound used to express disapproval or pity is a dental click, although, in this context, it is not a phoneme (a sound that distinguishes words) but a paralinguistic speech-sound. Similarly paralinguistic usage of dental clicks is made in certain other languages, but the meaning thereof differs widely between many of the languages (e.g., affirmation in Somali but negation in many varieties of Arabic).[2]

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨ǀ⟩, a vertical bar. Prior to 1989, ⟨ʇ⟩ was the IPA letter for the dental clicks. It is still occasionally used where the symbol ⟨ǀ⟩ would be confounded with other symbols, such as prosody marks, or simply because in many fonts the vertical bar is indistinguishable from an el or capital i.[3] Either letter may be combined with a second letter to indicate the manner of articulation, though this is commonly omitted for tenuis clicks, and increasingly a diacritic is used instead. Common dental clicks are:

Trans. I Trans. II Trans. III Description
k͜ǀ ᵏǀ ǀ tenuis dental click
k͜ǀʰ ᵏǀʰ ǀʰ aspirated dental click
ɡ͜ǀ ᶢǀ ǀ̬ voiced dental click
ŋ͜ǀ ᵑǀ ǀ̃ dental nasal click
ŋ͜ǀ̥ʰ ᵑǀ̥ʰ ǀ̥̃ʰ aspirated dental nasal click
ŋ͜ǀˀ ᵑǀˀ ǀ̃ˀ glottalized dental nasal click
q͜ǀ qǀ tenuis dental click
q͜ǀʰ qǀʰ aspirated dental click
ɢ͜ǀ ɢǀ voiced dental click
ɴ͜ǀ ᶰǀ dental nasal click
ɴ͜ǀ̥ʰ ᶰǀ̥ʰ aspirated dental nasal click
ɴ͜ǀˀ ᶰǀˀ glottalized dental nasal click

The last is what is heard in the sound sample at right, as non-native speakers tend to glottalize clicks to avoid nasalizing them.

In the orthographies of individual languages, the letters and digraphs for dental clicks may be based on either the vertical bar symbol of the IPA, ⟨ǀ⟩, or on the Latin ⟨c⟩ of Bantu convention. Nama and most Saan languages use the former; Naro, Sandawe, and Zulu use the latter.


Features of dental clicks:


Dental clicks are common in Khoisan languages and the neighboring Nguni languages, such as Zulu and Xhosa. In the Nguni languages, the tenuis click is denoted by the letter c, the murmured click by gc, the aspirated click by ch, and the nasal click by nc. The prenasalized clicks are written ngc and nkc.

The Cushitic language Dahalo has four clicks, all of them nasalized: [ᵑ̊ʇ, ᵑʇ, ᵑ̊ʇʷ, ᵑʇʷ].

Dental clicks may also be used para-linguistically. For example, English speakers use a plain dental click, usually written tsk or tut (and often reduplicated tsk-tsk or tut-tut; these spellings often lead to spelling pronunciations /tɪsk/ or /tʌt/), as an interjection to express commiseration, disapproval, irritation, or to call a small animal. German (ts or tss), Hungarian (cöccögés), Persian (noch), Portuguese (tsc), Russian (ts-ts-ts; sound file) Spanish (ts) and French (t-t-t-t) speakers use the dental click in exactly the same way as English.

The dental click is also used para-linguistically in Semitic languages such as Arabic, Hebrew and Indo-European Pashto, and Persian where it is transcribed as نچ‎/noch and is also used as a negative response to a "yes or no" question (including Dari and Tajiki). It is also used in some languages spoken in regions closer to, or in, Europe, such as Turkish, Albanian, Greek, Bulgarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian or Serbian and Croatian to denote a negative response to a "yes or no" question. The dental click is sometimes accompanied by an upward motion of the head.[4][2]

Language Word IPA Meaning
Zulu icici [iːǀíːǀi] = [iːʇíːʇi] earring
ukuchaza [úɠuˈǀʰáːza̤] = [úɠuˈʇʰáːza̤] to fascinate
isigcino [ísiᶢǀʱǐ̤ːno] = [ísiʇ̬ʱǐ̤ːno] end
incwancwa [iᵑǀwáːᵑǀwa] = [iʇ̃wáːʇ̃wa] sour corn meal
ingcosi [iᵑǀʱǒ̤ːsi] = [iʇ̃ʱǒ̤ːsi] a bit
Hadza cinambo [ǀinambo] = [ʇinambo] firefly
cheta [ǀʰeta] = [ʇʰeta] to be happy
minca [miᵑǀa] = [miʇ̃a] to smack one's lips
tacce [taᵑǀˀe] = [taʇ̃ˀe] rope
Khoekhoe ǀgurub [ǀȕɾȕp] = [ʇȕɾȕp] dry autumn leaves
ǀnam [ǀnȁm̀] = [ʇ̃ȁm̀] to love
ǀHōǂgaeb [ᵑ̊ǀʰȍòǂàè̯p] = [ʇ̥̃ʰȍòǂàè̯p] November
ǀoroǀoro [ᵑǀˀòɾőᵑǀˀòɾȍ] = [ʇ̃ˀòɾőʇ̃ˀòɾȍ] to wear s.t. out
ǀkhore [ǀ͡χòɾe̋] = [ʇ͡χòɾe̋] to divine, prophesize

See also[]


  1. ^ Ladefoged & Traill, 1984:18
  2. ^ a b WALS info on Para-linguistic usage of the dental click
  3. ^ John Wells, 2011. Vertical lines. Compare the vertical bar, ⟨ǀ⟩, with ⟨|⟩, ⟨l⟩, and ⟨I⟩ (unformatted ⟨ǀ⟩, ⟨|⟩, ⟨l⟩, ⟨I⟩).
  4. ^ Deliso, Christopher. "Saying Yes and No in the Balkans". Overseas Digest. Archived from the original on 2008-12-26. Retrieved 2008-10-23.


External links[]