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Dental clicks

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Dental clicks

Dental click
IPA number 177, 201
Entity (decimal) ǀ​ʇ
Unicode (hex) U+01C0 U+0287
Kirshenbaum t!
Braille ⠯ (braille pattern dots-12346) ⠹ (braille pattern dots-1456)
Voiced dental click
ᶢǀ ᵈǀ
Kirshenbaum d!
Dental nasal click
ᵑǀ ⁿǀ
Kirshenbaum n!

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) or tsk! tsk! (American spelling) sound used to express disapproval or pity is a dental click, although it isn't a speech sound in that context.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ǀ, a pipe. Prior to 1989, ʇ was the IPA letter for the dental clicks. It is still occasionally used where the symbol ǀ would be confounded with other symbols, such as prosody marks, or simply because in many fonts the pipe 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
ǀ or ʇ Tenuis dental click
ǀʰ or ʇʰ Aspirated dental click
ǀ̬ or ʇ̬ ᶢǀ or ᶢʇ Voiced dental click
ǀ̃ or ʇ̃ ᵑǀ or ᵑʇ Dental nasal click
ǀ̥̃ʰ or ʇ̥̃ʰ ᵑ̊ǀʰ or ᵑ̊ʇʰ Aspirated dental nasal click
ǀ̃ˀ or ʇ̃ˀ ᵑǀˀ or ᵑʇˀ 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 pipe symbol of the IPA, ǀ, or on the Latin c of Bantu convention. Nama and most Saan languages use the former; Naro, Sandawe, and Zulu use the latter.


  • Features 1
  • Occurrence 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
    • Bibliography 4.1
    • Notes 4.2
  • External links 5


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: [ᵑ̊ʇ, ᵑʇ, ᵑ̊ʇʷ, ᵑʇʷ].

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 /tɪsk/ or /tʌt/), as an interjection to express commiseration, disapproval, irritation, or to call a small animal. German (ts or tss), Hungarian (cöccögés), Portuguese (tsc), Spanish (ts) and French (tut-tut) 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 'نچ'/'noch' (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 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 [iːǀíːǀi] = [iːʇíːʇi] earring
ukuchaza [úɠuˈǀʰáːza̤] = [úɠuˈʇʰáːza̤] to fascinate
isigcino [ísiᶢǀʱǐ̤ːno] = [ísiʇ̬ʱǐ̤ːno] end
incwancwa [iᵑǀwáːᵑǀwa] = [iʇ̃wáːʇ̃wa] sour corn meal
ingcosi [iᵑǀʱǒ̤ːsi] = [iʇ̃ʱǒ̤ːsi] a bit
Hadza cinambo [ǀinambo] = [ʇinambo] firefly
cheta [ǀʰeta] = [ʇʰeta] to be happy
minca [miᵑǀa] = [miʇ̃a] to smack one's lips
tacce [taᵑǀˀe] = [taʇ̃ˀe] rope
Khoekhoe ǀgurub [ǀȕɾȕp] = [ʇȕɾȕp] dry autumn leaves
ǀnam [ǀnȁm̀] = [ʇ̃ȁm̀] to love
ǀHōǂgaeb [ᵑ̊ǀʰȍòǂàè̯p] = [ʇ̥̃ʰȍòǂàè̯p] November
ǀoroǀoro [ᵑǀˀòɾőᵑǀˀòɾȍ] = [ʇ̃ˀòɾőʇ̃ˀòɾȍ] to wear s.t. out
ǀkhore [ǀ͡χòɾe̋] = [ʇ͡χòɾe̋] to divine, prophesize

See also





  1. ^ Ladefoged & Traill, 1984:18
  2. ^ John Wells, 2011. Vertical lines. Compare the pipe, ǀ, with |, l, and I (unformatted ǀ, |, l, I).
  3. ^ Deliso, Christopher. "Saying Yes and No in the Balkans". Overseas Digest. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  4. ^ WALS info on Para-linguistic usage of the dental click

External links

  • The Meaning of Tsk Tsk Tsk (  
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