Dental Click
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Dental Click
Dental click
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
Dental nasal click

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.

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 component of a larger word).

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨?⟩, a vertical bar. Prior to 1989, ⟨?⟩ was the IPA letter for the dental clicks. It is still occasionally used where the symbol ⟨?⟩ 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.[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 dental clicks are:

IPA I IPA II Description
?or? Tenuis dental click
or Aspirated dental click
or or Voiced dental click
or or Dental nasal click
?or? ?or? Aspirated dental nasal click
or or 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, ⟨?⟩, 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:

  • The basic articulation may be voiced, nasal, aspirated, glottalized, etc.
  • The forward place of articulation is typically dental (or denti-alveolar) and laminal, which means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge or the upper teeth, but depending on the language may be interdental or even apical. The release is a noisy, affricate-like sound.
  • Clicks may be oral or nasal, which means that the airflow is either restricted to the mouth, or passes through the nose as well.
  • They are central consonants, which means they are produced by releasing the airstream at the center of the tongue, rather than at the sides.
  • 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.


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: [, , ?, ].

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 /t?sk/ or /t?t/), as an interjection to express commiseration, disapproval, irritation, or to call a small animal. German (ts or tss), Hungarian (cöccögés), 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 Middle Eastern languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Pashto, and Persian where it is transcribed as ''/'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.[3][4]

Language Word IPA Meaning
Zulu icici [i:?í:?i] = [i:?í:?i] earring
ukuchaza [ú?u'á:za?] = [ú?u'á:za?] to fascinate
isigcino [ísi:no] = [ísi:no] end
incwancwa [iwá:wa] = [iwá:wa] sour corn meal
ingcosi [i:si] = [i:si] a bit
Hadza cinambo [?inambo] = [?inambo] firefly
cheta [eta] = [eta] to be happy
minca [mia] = [mia] to smack one's lips
tacce [tae] = [tae] rope
Khoekhoe ?gurub [?p] = [?p] dry autumn leaves
?nam [?n?m?] = [m?] to love
?Hgaeb [ò?àè?p] = [ò?àè?p] November
?oro?oro [òò] = [òò] to wear s.t. out
?khore [ò?e?] = [ò?e?] to divine, prophesize

See also


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


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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