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"ǃ" redirects here. For the article on the exclamation mark (!), see Exclamation mark.
Alveolar click
IPA number 178
Entity (decimal) ǃ
Unicode (hex) U+01C3
Kirshenbaum t.![1]
[[File:Template:IPA audio filename| center| 150px]]

[create] Documentation
Voiced alveolar click
Kirshenbaum d.!
[[File:Template:IPA audio filename| center| 150px]]
Alveolar nasal click
Kirshenbaum n.!
[[File:Template:IPA audio filename| center| 150px]]

The alveolar or postalveolar clicks are a family of click consonants found only in Africa and in the Damin ritual jargon of Australia.

The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨ǃ⟩. The symbol is not an exclamation mark in origin, but rather a pipe with a subscript dot ( ⟨ǀ̣⟩ ), the old diacritic for retroflex consonants. Prior to 1989, ⟨ʗ⟩ was the IPA representation of the tenuis postalveolar click, and this is still preferred by some phoneticians. The tail of ⟨ʗ⟩ may be the tail of retroflex consonants in the IPA, and thus analogous to the underdot of ⟨ǃ⟩.[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 alveolar clicks are:

IPA I IPA II Description
[ǃ] or [ʗ] tenuis alveolar click
[ǃʰ] or [ʗʰ] aspirated alveolar click
[ǃ̬] or [ʗ̬] [ᶢǃ] or [ᶢʗ] voiced alveolar click
[ǃ̃] or [ʗ̃] [ᵑǃ] or [ᵑʗ] nasal alveolar click
[ǃ̥̃ʰ] or [ʗ̃̊ʰ] [ᵑ̊ǃʰ] or [ᵑ̊ʗʰ] aspirated nasal alveolar click
[ǃˀ, ǃ̥̃ˀ] or [ʗˀ, ʗ̃̊ˀ] [ᵑ̊ǃˀ] or [ᵑ̊ʗˀ]) glottalized nasal alveolar 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.


Features of postalveolar clicks:

  • The basic articulation may be voiced, nasal, aspirated, glottalized, etc.
  • The forward place of articulation is alveolar or postalveolar, depending on the language, and apical, which means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge or the roof of the mouth behind the alveolar ridge. (Damin contrasted these two articulations as separate phonemes.) The release is a sharp, plosive-like sound in southern Africa, but in Hadza and Sandawe they are frequently flapped, with the underside of the tip of the tongue striking the floor of the mouth after the release of the click; in some cases, the release is rather faint, and it is this sub-apical percussive sound that dominates.
  • 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.

Template:Lingual airstream


English does not have an alveolar click (or any click consonant, for that matter) as a phoneme, but a plain alveolar click does occur in mimesis, as a sound children use to imitate a horse trotting.[3]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
ǃKung [ᵑǃáŋ] – [ʗ̃áŋ] 'inside'
Hadza [laǃo] – [laʗo] 'to trip'
[keǃʰena] – [keʗʰena] 'to be slow'
[ɦeᵑǃeʔe] – [ɦeʗ̃eʔe] 'dead leopard'
[teᵑǃˀe] – [teʗ̃ˀe] 'to carry'
Sesotho ho qoqa [ho ǃɔǃɑ] – [ho ʗɔʗɑ] 'to examine' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and nasal alveolar clicks. See Sesotho phonology
Xhosa iqanda [iǃanda] – [iʗanda] 'egg' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and nasal alveolar clicks.
!Xóõ !qhàà [ǃ͡qʰɑ̀ː] – [ʗ͡qʰɑ̀ː] 'water'
Zulu iqaqa [iːˈǃaːǃa] 'polecat' Contrasts with murmured, aspirated, and nasal alveolar clicks.

Fricated alveolar clicks[]

Fricated alveolar click
[[File:Template:IPA audio filename| center| 150px]]

Ekoka !Xung has a series of alveolar-to-postalveolar clicks which derive historically from palatal clicks. Unlike regular alveolar clicks, which also occur in Ekoka !Xung, these are affricates: instead of the abrupt release typical of alveolar clicks, they have a slow, turbulent release that sounds much like an [s], Template:IPAblink, or Template:IPAblink. Like the palatal clicks they derive from, they do not have the retracted tongue root and back-vowel constraint typical of alveolar clicks. The recommended transcription for the tenuis click is: ǃ͡s.[4]

See also[]


  1. The original Kirshembaum proposal assigned ⟨c!⟩ to IPA ⟨ʗ⟩, which it used indifferently for both alveolar and palatal clicks. Using ⟨c!⟩ for ⟨ǂ⟩ and ⟨t.!⟩ for ⟨ǃ⟩ in more in keeping with the philosophy of the proposal, which was that the !-diacritic for clicks should accompany the homorganic stop.
  2. Pullum & Ladusaw, Phonetic symbol guide, p. 34
  3. Tucker et al. (1977), The East-African Click Languages: A Phonetic Comparison
  4. Miller, Holliday, Howcroft, Phillips, Smith, Tsui, & Scott. 2011. "The Phonetics of the Modern-day reflexes of the Proto‐palatal click in Juu languages".
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