Palatal click

Palatal click
(plain velar)
 ʃ =
IPA Number179
Entity (decimal)ǂ
Unicode (hex)U+01C2
Braille⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)⠱ (braille pattern dots-156)
Audio sample
Voiced palatal click
Palatal nasal click

The palatal or palato-alveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found, as components of words, only in Africa. The tongue is nearly flat, and is pulled back rather than down as in the postalveolar clicks, making a sharper sound than those consonants. The tongue makes an extremely broad contact across the roof of the mouth, making a determination of their place of articulation difficult, but Ladefoged & Traill (1984:18) find that the primary place of articulation is the palate, and say that "there is no doubt that [ǂ] should be described as a palatal sound".

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨ǂ⟩, a double-barred vertical bar. An older variant, the double-barred esh, ⟨ ʄ ⟩, is sometimes seen. This may be combined with a second letter or a diacritic to indicate the manner of articulation, though this is commonly omitted for tenuis clicks.

In the orthographies of individual languages, palatal clicks may be written either with digraphs based on the vertical-bar letter of the IPA, or using the Latin alphabet. Nama and most Saan languages use the former. Conventions for the latter include multigraphs based on ⟨ç⟩ in Juǀʼhoansi (1987 orthography) and originally in Naro, the latter since changed to ⟨tc⟩, and on ⟨qc⟩. In the 19th century, ⟨v⟩ was sometimes used (see click letters); this might be the source of the Doke letter for the voiceless palatal click, ⟨ↆ⟩, apparently a v over-struck with a vertical bar.

Trans. I Trans. II Trans. III Description
k͜ǂ ᵏǂ ǂ tenuis palatal click
k͜ǂʰ ᵏǂʰ ǂʰ aspirated palatal click
ɡ͜ǂ ᶢǂ ǂ̬ voiced palatal click
ŋ͜ǂ ᵑǂ ǂ̃ palatal nasal click
ŋ͜ǂ̥ʰ ᵑǂ̥ʰ ǂ̥̃ʰ aspirated palatal nasal click
ŋ͜ǂˀ ᵑǂˀ ǂ̃ˀ glottalized palatal nasal click
q͜ǂ qǂ tenuis palatal click
q͜ǂʰ qǂʰ aspirated palatal click
ɢ͜ǂ ɢǂ voiced palatal click
ɴ͜ǂ ᶰǂ palatal nasal click
ɴ͜ǂ̥ʰ ᶰǂ̥ʰ aspirated palatal nasal click
ɴ͜ǂˀ ᶰǂˀ glottalized palatal nasal click


Features of palato-alveolar clicks:


Palatal clicks only occur in the southern African Khoisan languages (the Khoe, Kx'a, and Tuu families), where they are extremely common, and in Bantu languages such as Yeyi, Zulu and Xhosa.

Language Word IPA Meaning
Khoekhoe ǂKhoesaob [ǂ͡χòe̯̋sàȍ̯p] July
Taa ǂnûm [ᵑǂûm] = [ǂ̃ûm] two
ǂHaba ǂHaba [ǂʰabá] (endonym)
Naro tcháó-kg'am
[ǂʰáó̯kχʼam] to be disappointed
Yeyi [kuǂʔapara] to smash up

Fricated palatal clicks[]

Fricated palatal click
 ʃ =(⨎)

Ekoka !Kung has a series of laminal postalveolar-to-palatal clicks with a noisy, fricated release which derive historically from more prototypical palatal clicks. These have been variously described as fricated alveolar clicks and (inaccurately) as retroflex clicks.[1] Unlike typical palatal clicks, which have a sharp, abrupt release, these have a slow, turbulent anterior release that sounds much like a short inhaled [ʃ]; they also have a domed tongue rather than a flat tongue like a typical palatal click.[citation needed] The release has also been described as lateral.[2] Like the clicks they derive from, they do not have the retracted tongue root and back-vowel constraint typical of alveolar clicks. A provisional transcription for the tenuis click is ⟨ǃ͡s⟩, though this misleadingly suggests that the clicks are affricates.[3] Another proposal is to resurrect the old ʃ-like letter for palatal clicks, ⟨⨎⟩.

See also[]


  1. ^ Heine and König (2010)
  2. ^ Miller (2010) Phonological patterns involving new types of complex and contour segments in endangered Khoesan languages, CUNY Conference on the Phonology of Endangered Languages
  3. ^ Miller, Holliday, Howcroft, Phillips, Smith, Tsui, & Scott. 2011. "The Phonetics of the Modern-day reflexes of the Proto‐palatal click in Juu languages". In A concise dictionary of northwestern ǃXun (2008), König & Heine transcribe them ⟨‼⟩, which is elsewhere used for the retroflex clicks.

External links[]