4. Ejectives, implosives and clicks

    Note: Make sure that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font installed in your computer so that the IPA symbols will display correctly.


    It may take a bit of practice to learn how to make an ejective. Ladefoged gives some good suggestions; another, previously posted on the MIT site but no longer available:

     In order to practice making an ejective sound, start by holding your breath. Now, while you're still holding your breath, try to make a "k" sound; make the sound as loudly as you can, so that somebody sitting next to you can hear it. Now relax and breathe again. Congratulations! You've just made an ejective k.

     William Smalley (p. 407) suggests imagining that you have a bit of grass on the tip of your tongue that you're trying to spit out by sticking your tongue tip out between your lips and drawing it back sharply while blowing it off; this may get you to produce an interlabial glottalized stop or ejective. Next continue on to the other places of articulation without sticking out your tongue tip. Katrina Hayward (p. 269) says to try expelling all the air from your lungs that you possibly can, then trying to pronounce a /k/. You may, without consciously trying, resort to a glottalic airstream mechanism to get it out, and thus produce an ejective [k’].

     Here are Peter Ladefoged's files of ejectives as found in Hausa, a language of northern Nigeria (Ethnologue: Hausa); the Mayan language K'ekchi, spoken in Guatemala (Ethnologue: Kekchí); and Lakhota, a native American language (Ethnologue: Lakota).

     Here's an overview of ejectives, entitled "Glottalic Pressure Stops", from Louis Goldstein at the University of Southern California:



     More help with implosives, along with a lot of good general information on respiration and airstream mechanisms, by John Coleman at Oxford:


      Here are Peter Ladefoged's files of Sindhi implosives and other stops.


     You may have already heard a click language – called !Kung – being spoken if you have seen the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy". (Note also the sample of !Kung music linked to in the !Kung link.) Here is a National Geographic video on the San People of Namibia, with clear samples of their language.

     Here Russell Peters has fun with click languages on YouTube.

     Follow the links for Peter Ladefoged's files of Xhosa, !Xóõ, Zulu, and Nama clicks.

     Here is a YouTube video on the Nama clicks; here's one on the Xhosa clicks, and here's one of a fun Xhosa click song. Here is a video lesson of the KhoeKhoegowab language, one of the most widespread of the Bushman click languages of Namibia. Look for more videos on YouTube. Hear how the word Xhosa is pronunced in this audio clip from the BBC. (Source page; last link)

     Here's some information about the Nama people, culture and languages, and here is an overview of African languages on Wikipedia. Here is a 8/15/02 BBC report on Bushmen in Botswana which mentions clicks; here is a feature with sound file from BBC Radio that introduces the relation between man and nature in Bushman life.

     Click below for an impressive X-ray video of clicks being articulated, again from Peter Ladefoged's site:


     On the following page, from the Vocal Tract Visualization Lab of the Dental School of the University of Maryland Baltimore, you will find videos of Nama clicks being produced.


    This page from the University of Stuttgart has a nice sound file of clicks:


     Here are some links to recordings of two extinct click languages; one is a lullaby:


     Clear Speech author Judy Gilbert contributed this tidbit on clicks, taken from the novel Tears of the Giraffe, second in a series of stories about Botswana, by Alexander McCall Smith:

     [A man is suspected of being a Kalahari San bushman because of his racial appearance...] "The man spoke correct Setswana, but his accent confirmed the visible signs. Underneath the vowels, there were clicks and whistles struggling to get out. It was a peculiar language, the San language, more like the sound of birds in the trees than people talking."

     Some time ago there was a discussion over the LINGUIST list regarding a Ricoh copier ad which appeared on TV in the US and in a number of major world news magazines. The ad shows a picture of a Khoi tribal leader named Chief Obijol, and includes this line:

     "With a series of simple clicking sounds, he can teach a force of 200 men to hunt, to treat an illness, even how to find an appropriate mate."

     I doubt anybody who has studied clicks in depth would call them "simple"!

Here are links to the relevant posts: 1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9

Online exerices:

1. Hausa
Consonant test: Can you hear the difference between Hausa glottalized consonants and their plain counterparts?


2. Lakhota
Glottalized and aspirated stops; oral and nasal vowels; stress; h and x aspirated stops.

a. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/glottalized_stops.htm
b. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/h_aspirated_stops.htm
c. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/vowels.htm
d. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/vowels_nasal.htm
e. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/oral_nasal.htm
f. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/stress.htm
g. http://www.inext.cz/siouan/DRILLS/x_aspirated_stops.htm

3. Quechua (from Ladefoged)
Quechua contrasts uvular and velar stops, and palatoalveolar affricates. Each of these may occur in three varieties: voiceless unaspirated, voiceless aspirated, and ejective. Please transcribe each of the words.


Here are more pages with sound files of Quechua speech:



4. Sindhi
Stops, including implosives (from Ladefoged)

5. Listen to a voiced uvular implosive
Use Audacity to open this .ogg file

6. Hear click languages spoken on the radio
Zulu radio
(Click on "Listen Live" and "continue"; leave the homepage to turn off repeating audio)
b. Xhosa radio
(Click on "Listen Live" and "continue"; leave the homepage to turn off repeating audio)
c. Thobela (Northern Sotho) FM

Trills, L2 accent, and posting to LINGUIST

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