Bilabial clicks

Labial click
IPA number 176
Entity (decimal) ʘ
Unicode (hex) U+0298
Kirshenbaum p!
Braille ⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)⠏ (braille pattern dots-1234)
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Voiced labial click
Kirshenbaum b!
Nasal labial click
ᵑʘ ᵐʘ
Kirshenbaum m!

The labial or bilabial clicks are a family of click consonants that sound something like a smack of the lips. They are found as phonemes only in the small Tuu language family (currently two languages, one moribund), in the ǂHõã language of Botswana (also moribund), and in the extinct Damin ritual jargon of Australia. However, bilabial clicks are found paralinguistically for a kiss in various languages, and as allophones of labial–velar stops in some West African languages (Ladefoged 1968), as of /mw/ in some of the languages neighboring Shona, such as Ndau and Tonga.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ʘ. This 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 labial clicks are:

IPA I IPA II Description
ʘtenuis bilabial click
ʘʰaspirated bilabial click
ʘ̬ᶢʘvoiced bilabial click
ʘ̃ᵑʘbilabial nasal click
ʘ̥̃ʰᵑ̊ʘʰaspirated bilabial nasal click
ʘ̃ˀᵑʘˀglottalized bilabial 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.

Damin also had an egressive bilabial [ʘ↑], the world's only attested egressive click.


Features of ingressive labial clicks:

The labial clicks are sometimes erroneously described as sounding like a kiss. However, they do not have the pursed lips of a kiss. Instead, the lips are compressed, more like a [p] than a [w], and they sound more like a noisy smack of the lips than a kiss.


The bullseye or bull's eye (ʘ) symbol used in phonetic transcription of the phoneme was made an official part of the International Phonetic Alphabet in 1979, but had existed for at least 50 years earlier. It is encoded in Unicode as U+0298 LATIN LETTER BILABIAL CLICK.

Similar graphemes consisting of a circled dot encoded by Unicode are:

A symbol a turned b with a tail was created and is used in older publications. It was never widely used and was eventually dropped for ʘ. Still the deprecated IPA character is encoded at U+024B ɋ LATIN SMALL LETTER Q WITH HOOK TAIL (HTML &#587;). Earlier it is privately encoded by SIL International at U+F211 <private-use-F211> and is available in SIL supporting fonts.[3]


English does not have a labial click (or any click consonant, for that matter) as a phoneme, but a plain bilabial click does occur in mimesis, as a lip-smacking sound children use to imitate a fish.

Labial clicks only occur in the Tuu and Kx'a families of southern Africa, and in the Australian ritual language Damin.

Language Word IPA Meaning
ǂHoan ʘoa 'two'
Damin m!i ʘ̃i 'vegetable'
Taa ʘàa 'child'

See also

Look up ʘ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996:251)
  2. Miller, 2007, The Sounds of N|uu, pp 121ff
  3. "SIL PUA 6.1c". SIL International. 2002-09-16. Retrieved 2013-01-21.


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