Retroflex click

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Retroflex click
(plain velar)
k͡𝼊 k͡‼
ᵏ𝼊 ᵏ‼
𝼊 ‼
Voiced retroflex click
ɡ͡𝼊 ɡ͡‼
ᶢ𝼊 ᶢ‼
𝼊̬ ‼̬
Retroflex nasal click
ŋ͡𝼊 ŋ͡‼
ᵑ𝼊 ᵑ‼
𝼊̃ ‼̃

The retroflex clicks are a family of click consonants known only from the Central !Kung dialects of Namibia.[1] They are sub-apical retroflex and should not be confused with the more widespread postalveolar clicks, which are sometimes mistakenly called "retroflex" (for example in Unicode) due to their concave tongue shape.

There is no official symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the forward articulation of these sounds, and the expected symbol ⟨𝼊[2] is rarely seen. In the literature they are typically written with the ad hoc digraph ⟨⟩, the convention since Doke identified them as retroflex in 1926. (Doke's proposed symbol, ⟨ψ⟩,[3] did not catch on, nor did Vedder's and Anders' ⟨⦀⟩.[4] For a while Amanda Miller, who noted a lateral fricated release (as had Vedder), transcribed them ⟨ǃǁ⟩.[5])

The Damin ritual jargon of Australia may have had a voiced nasal click, transcribed by Hale & Nash as ⟨rn!⟩, though it's not known if it was phonemically distinct. However, Damin presumably had the articulations of Lardil, in which the "retroflex" consonants are apical alveolar rather than true retroflex, so it is likely that the Damin distinction, if it existed, might be described as post-alveolar [ᵑǃ̠] (⟨rn!⟩) vs a more fronted [ᵑǃ̪] (⟨n!⟩).

Basic retroflex clicks are:

Trans. I Trans. II Trans. III Description
k͜𝼊 ᵏ𝼊 𝼊 tenuis retroflex click
k͜𝼊ʰ ᵏ𝼊ʰ 𝼊ʰ aspirated retroflex click
ɡ͜𝼊 ᶢ𝼊 𝼊̬ voiced retroflex click
ŋ͜𝼊 ᵑ𝼊 𝼊̃ retroflex nasal click
ŋ͜𝼊ʰʰ ᵑ𝼊ʰʰ 𝼊̃ʰʰ aspirated retroflex nasal click
ŋ͜𝼊ˀ ᵑ𝼊ˀ 𝼊̃ˀ glottalized retroflex nasal click
q͜𝼊 𐞥𝼊 tenuis retroflex click
q͜𝼊ʰ 𐞥𝼊ʰ aspirated retroflex click
ɢ͜𝼊 𐞒𝼊 voiced retroflex click
ɴ͜𝼊 ᶰ𝼊 retroflex nasal click
ɴ͜𝼊ʰʰ ᶰ𝼊ʰʰ aspirated retroflex nasal click
ɴ͜𝼊ˀ ᶰ𝼊ˀ glottalized retroflex nasal click


Features of postalveolar clicks:

  • The basic articulation may be voiced, nasal, aspirated, glottalized, etc.
  • The place of articulation is post-alveolar, and the tongue shape may be subapical, which means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue curled up. The center of the tongue moves downward to create suction.
  • Clicks may be oral or nasal, which means that the airflow is either restricted to the mouth, or passes through the nose as well.
  • It is a lateral consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream over the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle.
  • The airstream mechanism is lingual ingressive (also known as velaric ingressive), which means a pocket of air trapped between two closures is rarefied by a "sucking" action of the tongue, rather than being moved by the glottis or the lungs/diaphragm. The release of the forward closure produces the "click" sound. Voiced and nasal clicks have a simultaneous pulmonic egressive airstream.


As with other click articulations, retroflex clicks may be produced with various manners. An example is the voiced retroflex click in the Grootfontein !Kung (Central Juu) word for 'water', /ǃ̢ˡú/ (gǃ̢ú).

Damin is the only other language known to have had such a sound, though only the nasal click occurred.

A retroflex series claimed for Ekoka !Kung turns out to be domed palatal clicks.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Scott, Abigail; Miller, Amanda; Namaseb, Levi; Sands, Bonny; Shah, Sheena (June 2, 2010). "Retroflex Clicks in Two Dialects of ǃXung". University of Botswana, Department of African Languages.
  2. ^ renderable in some fonts as ⟨ǃ̢⟩ or ⟨ǃ̨
  3. ^ Doke, Clement M. (1925). "An outline of the phonetics of the language of the ʗhũ: Bushman of the North-West Kalahari". Bantu Studies. 2: 129–166. doi:10.1080/02561751.1923.9676181.
  4. ^ Anders, H.D. (1935). "A note on a South Eastern Bushman dialect". Zeitschrift für Eingeborenen-Sprachen. 25: 81–89.
    —— "The clicks". South African Journal of Science. 33: 926–939. 1937.
  5. ^ Miller, Amanda (2009). Contrastive Coronal Click Types in !Xung.

Further reading[edit]

  • Scott, Abigail; Miller, Amanda; Namaseb, Levi; Sands, Bonny; Shah, Sheena (June 2, 2010). "Retroflex Clicks in Two Dialects of ǃXung". University of Botswana, Department of African Languages.

External links[edit]