Emphatic consonant

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The term emphatic consonants comes from the linguistics in the Semitic languages and describes a series of sound consonants that differ from other voiced and unvoiced consonants .

Pronunciation and origins in Proto-Semitic

In some Semitic languages , the emphatic sounds are articulated as pharyngals , velars or ejectives , in contrast to the simple, voiced or unvoiced consonants known in European languages . The term emphatic is sometimes used in relation to other Afro-Asian languages in which emphasis is expressed through ejective or implosive consonants . In Semitic literature, the emphatic consonants are usually identified by an additional point below the corresponding consonant of the Latin alphabet (e.g. ṭ, ṣ, ḍ and ẓ) to emphasize the phonetic properties that distinguish these consonants from the other consonants. In the Arabic language , the designation is emphatically synonymous with a secondary articulation with a narrowed pharynx or rear tongue, which is viewed as velarization or pharyngealization depending on the articulation point . Within the Arabic language, the phonetic realization of emphatic consonants varies from dialect to dialect, but the pharyngeal consonant is mostly used. In Ethiopian and modern South Arabic languages, the emphatic consonants are articulated by ejective consonants. Although this sounds not necessarily phonetically agree with each other, they still come scriptural history from from a common source.

These five emphatic consonants can already be found in the proto-Semitic language :

Emphatic consonants in Arabic

The consonants designated as emphatic differ from their non-emphatic counterparts in that they are pronounced with more emphasis (i.e. a higher air output) and lightly squeezed. To do this, the back and front tongue, which is lowered in non-emphatic sounds except for the tip of the tongue, is pressed against the palate. This causes the vowel following the consonant to turn dark. The a, normally open, almost pronounced like [ä], sounds like dark after an emphatic consonant, reminding of an open o, i changes in the direction of an open e, and u sounds almost like o.

Arabic linguistics knows three properties that are related to the concept of emphatic consonants.

1.) Four consonants in modern Arabic are considered مطبقة / muṭbaqa  / 'covered' (the tongue covers parts of the palate):

  • : ص , the emphatic counterpart to س
  • : ض , the emphatic counterpart to د
  • : ط , the emphatic counterpart to ت
  • : ظ , the (originally) emphatic counterpart to .

2.) In addition to these four, three more count as مستعلية / mustaʿlīya  / 'increasing' (concerning the vowel coloring):

The consonants mentioned under 1.) and 2.) are always valid مفخمة / mufaḫḫama  / 'velarized / pharyngalized'.

3.) Three other sounds can also be mufaḫḫama under certain conditions :

  • ā : ا , after one of the mufaḫḫama consonants
  • l : ل , in the wordالله / Allaah , but not to Kasra .
  • r : ر , depending on the surrounding vowels.

Emphatic consonants in Hebrew

In the pronunciation of modern Hebrew , as a rule, no distinction is made between emphatic and non-emphatic consonants. The emphatic character of individual sounds has been lost, the emphatic sounds have coincided with their non-emphatic counterparts. In Israel, however, emphatic consonants are still articulated in the pronunciation of some immigrant groups; For example, Jews of Iraqi origin differentiate Kaf (כ) from Koph (ק) and Taw (ת) from Tet (ט). In the Hebrew script, the emphatic consonants are still recognizable through the use of their own letters:

  • q : ק is the (originally) emphatic counterpart to k , כ .
  • : צ is an (originally) emphatic voiceless s ; today it is pronounced ts like German z.
  • : ט is the (originally) emphatic counterpart to t , ת .

The vowelism does not change after the masoretic definition of the Hebrew phonetics in the context of these sounds. Only before or after gutturals (the letters Aleph, He, Chet, Ajin and possibly Resch) does this happen regularly, similar to the above for the Arabic under 2.) and 3.); so i shift to e or a, e to a, u to o when followed by a guttural.

Emphatic consonants in Maltese

The emphatic sounds have also been lost in the pronunciation of Maltese. It can be assumed that all of the sounds mentioned above for the Arabic language were articulated in medieval Maltese. Maltese emerged from Arabic and in the course of the Middle Ages it developed into an independent language that is no longer under Arabic influence.

The originally emphatic sounds are not recognizable in the typeface, as the Latin script used in Maltese orthography did not develop any letters of its own for them. Only q, which today is pronounced like a clearly audible voice paragraph, forms its own graph. In local dialects it was still implemented as an emphatic k until the 20th century.

Nevertheless, the vowel environment remains influenced by the formerly emphatic character of individual consonants, cf. sajf (summer) and sejf (saber); The former originally had an emphatic voiceless s, the latter had a simple voiceless s, today both s sound the same. Emphatic consonants usually color the following vowel dark (hence sajf ), while non-emphatic consonants tend to lighten it (hence sejf ). In classical Arabic, both words still have the vowel a; however, there the two s-sounds are clearly differentiated. Similar word pairs can be formed with words that contain a k-sound, e.g. B. qalb (heart), but kelb (dog).

See also

Other languages ​​with emphatic consonants:

More articles:


  • Christopher Ehret Reconstructing Proto-Afroasiatic (Proto-Afrasian) Vowels, Tone, Consonants, and Vocabulary. University of California Publications in Linguistics 126 , California, Berkeley 1995. ISBN 0-520-09799-8

Web links

Wikibooks: Arabic: Writing and Pronunciation  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. W. Baumgartner / K. Budde / W. Hollenberg, Textbook of the Hebrew Language of the Old Testament , Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn 1981, 2., through. Ed.
  2. M. Moser, Malti-Ġermaniż. Dizzjunarju kbir , Wiesbaden: Reichert 2005, ISBN 3-89500-468-5 .