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On the Representation of Clicks

Bradlow, Ann R.

At the level of phonetic description, click consonants involve a double articulation, and a timing of articulatory gestures which results in an ingressive, velaric airstream mechanism. Phonological analyses regarding the linguistic representation of clicks vary in the status - major or minor - they afford each of the two place of articulation specifications. These segments are typologically unusual in that they occur only in certain language families of southern and eastern Africa. This paper combines information about the phonetic description and phonological patterning of clicks, with typological universals of doubly articulated segments, to argue that clicks are back consonants with a secondary front closure.

The most complex and extensive inventory of click consonants described in the literature is found in !XOO, a Bushman language spoken in Botswana and Namibia. This language has a total of 80 distinctive clicks, being almost double the number of clicks in Zunhoisi (also known as !Xu), the next most extensive click language. Due to this complexity, !XOO is a particularly interesting language to study, and owing to the extensive fieldwork of Dr. Anthony Traill, data on this language is readily available. For these reasons, this paper will focus primarily on data from !Xoo.

The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. In section 1, I provide a brief phonetic description of clicks. Section 2 reviews the main points of the various phonological feature analyses of clicks. Section 3 discusses the notion of primary and secondary articulations and how it bears on the representation of clicks. This section also proposes an analysis of clicks in which they are represented as back consonants with a secondary front articulation. Section 4 discusses the clicks of the Khoisan language, !XOO, and their relationship to the non-click consonants of the language. The comparison of the click and non-click systems of this language will be shown to provide further support for the analysis proposed in section 3. Finally, section 5 provides a summary and conclusions of the discussion.

This paper is copyrighted, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) - see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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