Click (phonetics)

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A click (also click, click (loud), injective ) is a velar - ingressive closure sound , which is formed by two closures in the vocal tract (attachment tube). The noise generated by these sounds is caused by the opening of the primary closure of the resulting oral air chamber, into which the surrounding air consequently flows quickly in order to compensate for the negative pressure.

The clicks are formed in several ways by clicking your tongue. In order to generate the clicks, the tongue must perform a sucking motion. The position of the tongue and the way in which you inhale produce very different clicks.

When used in words, it is quite difficult for non-native speakers to associate them with surrounding consonants and vowels.


Clicking occurs in many languages, for example as an expression of disapproval or to attract attention. The only living languages, however, where clicking sounds as regular speech sounds (or phonemes ) may be used are, African Khoisan languages (for example, Khoekhoegowab , one of the national languages Namibia ) and adjacent languages of Bantu language group (z. B. Zulu , Xhosa , South Sotho and Yeyi ) and the Kushitic language Dahalo , which most likely adopted such sounds from the Khoisan. In all three language groups together there are around 80 languages. Some of the Khoisan languages, such as the ǃXóõ , have over 80 different clicks in their phoneme inventory.

The only non-African language known to have been used regularly by clicks is Demiin , an alternative language encoding used by speakers of Lardil , an Australian language , in a kind of language game . The language is now extinct.

In music, clicking is used as an element of vocal percussion . A prominent example is the 2004 number one hit Drop It Like It's Hot by Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell .


ǀ ǁ ǂ ǃ

The orthographies of various languages ​​of southern Africa, for example Khoekhoegowab, use special click- sounding letters to write the clicks, as they are also used in the International Phonetic Alphabet . These letters then come in geographical names, personal names and names of mythological figures in front (such as from the mythology of Ju|'hoansi the namesake for the dwarf planet candidates (229762) G!kúnǁ'hòmdímà ). Other languages ​​( e.g. isiXhosa ) use letters from the basic Latin alphabet for clicks.


The International Phonetic Association (IPA) differentiates between five clicks in its publications and assigns them to corresponding characters ( International Phonetic Alphabet ):

  • Bilabial [⁠ ʘ ⁠] : Similar to an air kiss with unrounded lips. listen ? / iAudio file / audio sample
  • Dental [⁠ | ⁠] : The tongue tip is brought to the front teeth. This sound is sometimes used in German to express reproach or disappointment. listen ? / iAudio file / audio sample
  • (Post) alveolar [⁠ ! ⁠] : The tongue tip is possible far up at the ceiling of the oral cavity. listen ? / iAudio file / audio sample
  • Palatoalveolar [⁠ ǂ ⁠] : The tongue tip is pressed against the front of the hard palate and then withdrawn as quickly as possible. That sounds like a cork popping. listen ? / iAudio file / audio sample
  • Alveolar lateral [⁠ ǁ ⁠] : The tongue is brought to the back teeth sideways. listen ? / iAudio file / audio sample

Overview of the click sounds that can be displayed in the IPA in connection with other non-pulmonary consonants :

Non-pulmonary consonants bilabial labio-
dental alveolar alveolar-lateral alveolo-
retroflex palatal velar uvular
Clicks ʘ ǀ ǃ ǁ ǂ ǃ˞
Implosive ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ʛ
Ejectives Ejective plosives t̪ʼ ʈʼ k '
Ejective fricatives ɸʼ θʼ ɬʼ ɕʼ ʃʼ ʂʼ çʼ χʼ
Ejective Affricates t͡θʼ t͡sʼ t͡ɬʼ t͡ɕʼ t͡ʃʼ ʈ͡ʂʼ c͡çʼ k͡xʼ q͡χʼ

See also


  • Otto von Essen : General and applied phonetics. 5th, revised and expanded edition. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1979, pp. 27f., 115 (about clicks / clicks).

Web links

Wiktionary: click sound  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: clicks  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Khoekhoegowab: 3ǁî xoaǀgaub = orthography 3 . Namibia Publishing House, Windhoek 2002, ISBN 978-99916-0-408-4 .
  2. George N. Clement: Phonology. In: Bernd Heine , Derek Nurse: African languages. An introduction. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2000, ISBN 0-521-66178-1 , pp. 123-160, here p. 150.
  3. Inward Click Roll., November 29, 2018, accessed on August 23, 2013 (English, video).
  4. (229762) Gǃkúnǁ'hòmdímà in the Small-Body Database of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (English). Template: JPL Small-Body Database Browser / Maintenance / AltRetrieved April 4, 2020.
  5. ^ The International Phonetic Association: Reproduction of The International Phonetic Alphabet (Revised to 2005). Consonants (Non-Pulmonic). ( online ( memento of February 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ))