Alveolar clicks

Not to be confused with the retroflex clicks or palatal clicks. Unicode uses the obsolete descriptions of "retroflex click" for the alveolar-click character ǃ and "alveolar click" for the palatal-click character ǂ.
Alveolar click
IPA number 178, 202
Entity (decimal) ǃʗ
Unicode (hex) U+01C3U+0297
Kirshenbaum c![1]
Braille ⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346)⠞ (braille pattern dots-2345)
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Voiced alveolar click
Kirshenbaum d.!
Alveolar nasal click
Kirshenbaum n.!
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The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia. The tongue is more or less concave (depending on the language), and is pulled down rather than back as in the palatal clicks, making a hollower sound than those consonants.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ǃ. The symbol is not an exclamation mark in origin, but rather a pipe with a subscript dot, ǀ̣, the dot being the old diacritic for retroflex consonants. Prior to 1989, ʗ (stretched c) was the IPA letter for the alveolar clicks, and this is still preferred by some phoneticians. The tail of ʗ may be the tail of retroflex consonants in the IPA, and thus analogous to the underdot of ǃ.[2] 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 alveolar clicks are:

IPA I IPA II Description
ǃ or ʗ Tenuis alveolar click
ǃʰ or ʗʰ aspirated alveolar click
ǃ̬ or ʗ̬ ᶢǃ or ᶢʗ Voiced alveolar click
ǃ̃ or ʗ̃ ᵑǃ or ᵑʗ Alveolar nasal click
ǃ̥̃ʰ or ʗ̃̊ʰ ᵑ̊ǃʰ or ᵑ̊ʗʰ Aspirated alveolar nasal click
ǃ̃ˀ or ʗ̃ˀ ᵑǃˀ or ᵑʗˀ Glottalized alveolar nasal click

The last can be heard in the sound sample at right; non-native speakers tend to glottalize clicks to avoid nasalizing them. The nasal click may also be heard at the right.

In the orthographies of individual languages, the letters and digraphs for alveolar clicks may be based on either the pipe symbol of the IPA, ǃ, or on the Latin q of Bantu convention. Nama and most Saan languages use the former; Naro, Sandawe, and Zulu use the latter.


Features of postalveolar clicks:


English does not have an alveolar click (or any click consonant, for that matter) as a phoneme, but a plain alveolar click does occur in mimesis, as a sound children use to imitate a horse trotting.[3]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
!Kung an [ᵑǃáŋ] = [ʗ̃áŋ] 'inside'
Hadza laqo [laǃo] = [laʗo] 'to trip'
keqhena [keǃʰena] = [keʗʰena] 'to be slow'
henqee [ɦeᵑǃeʔe] = [ɦeʗ̃eʔe] 'dead leopard'
teqqe [teᵑǃˀe] = [teʗ̃ˀe] 'to carry'
Sandawe gqokomi [ǃ̬okomi] = [ʗ̬okomi] 'greater kudu' may have a slapped release: [ǃ̬͡¡okomi] = [ʗ̬͡¡okomi]
Sotho ho qoqa [hoǃɔǃɑ] = [hoʗɔʗɑ] 'to examine' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and alveolar nasal clicks. See Sotho phonology
Xhosa iqanda [iǃanda] = [iʗanda] 'egg' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and alveolar nasal clicks
ǃXóõ ǃqhàà [ǃ͡qʰɑ̀ː] = [ʗ͡qʰɑ̀ː] 'water' An aspirated linguo-pulmonic stop
Zulu iqaqa [iːǃáːǃa] = [iːʗáːʗa] 'polecat' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and alveolar nasal clicks.

Percussive release

Percussive alveolar click

In Sandawe, alveolar clicks commonly have a ballistic release, with the underside of the tip of the tongue subsequently striking the floor of the mouth.[4] This allophone has been called "flapped" and "slapped". Sometimes the percussive slap is louder than the release, resulting in a sound that has been characterized as a "cluck". The symbol for the sublingual percussive component is ¡ in the extensions to the IPA;[5] a slapped click is therefore transcribed ǃ͡¡ (or ʗ͡¡. The percussive allophones of the five Sandawe alveolar clicks are [ǃ͡¡, ǃ͡¡ʰ, ᶢǃ͡¡, ᵑǃ͡¡, ᵑǃ͡¡ˀ] (or [ʗ͡¡ ʗ͜¡ʰ ʗ̬͡¡ ʗ̃͜¡ ʗ̃͜¡ˀ]).

"Fricated" alveolar clicks

A series of clicks in Ekoka !Kung have been variously described as retroflex or fricated alveolar clicks. See domed palatal clicks.

See also


  1. Kirshembaum assigned c! to IPA ʗ, which he used indifferently for both alveolar ǃ and palatal ǂ clicks.
  2. Pullum & Ladusaw, Phonetic Symbol Guide, p. 34
  3. Tucker et al. (1977), The East-African Click Languages: A Phonetic Comparison
  4. Wright, Richard, Ian Maddieson, Peter Ladefoged, Bonny Sands (1995). "A phonetic study of Sandawe clicks", UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics, No. 91: Fieldwork Studies in Targeted Languages III.
  5. Described as a "sublaminal lower-alveolar percussive click", though strictly speaking it is not a click as it is not ingressive.
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