Re: !Kung pronunciation??

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal (
Thu, 31 Oct 1996 18:59:23 GMT (Christian P Richard) wrote:

>How is the word "!Kung" exactly pronounced?

>What International Phonetic Associations symbols are used? Does the
>presence of the click mean two syllables? Is the "u" like the "u" of
>"cut", or is that only the Anglicised pronunciation?

The more correct name for this language is !Xu~, which is also the
correct IPA notation (/!xu~/ or /k!xu~/). There is just one syllable,
and two sounds:

/k!x/ unvoiced apical postalveolar central click with velar aspiration
/u~/ nasalized /u/

If you know how to pronounce it now, you're ahead of me. I can't.

Clicks are made by closing the airflow in the velar region with the back
of the tongue (as in English /k/ or /g/), and simultaneously making a
closure more forward in the mouth (with the lips or the front part of
the tongue). Then, the forward closure is released (while maintaining
the /k/ closure), and air rushes in the mouth, producing the sound
("ingressive", as opposed to normal "egressive", where the air flows
outwards). The forward closure can be:


bilabial ("kissy, kissy") (.) [bull's eye]
dental ("tsk, tsk") |
apical (cork/bottle) !
laminal (cork/bottle) =/=
lateral ("come on horsey!") ||

Most of these sounds are used in English. The problem is learning how
to use them in connected speech, as simple consonants.

In !Xu~, the problem is further compounded by lots of secondary
articulations. The apical postalveolar click !, for instance, has 11
variants, notated:

velar laryng.
plain aspir. aspir.
unvoiced ! !x !h
,, glott. !? !x? !?h

voiced g! g!G g!h
,, glott. g!G? g!?h

The name of the language itself contains the unvoiced unglottalized
variant with velar aspiration (/x/ is the sound in Scottish "loch").

Compared to that, the pronunciation of /u~/ is pretty straightforward.
English "oo" with nasalization (i.e. part of the air flows out of the
nose). French, for instance, has nasalized vowels (although it does not
have /u~/). Portuguese has /u~/.

In 10 easy steps:

1. push the back of the tongue against the soft palate, as for /k/.
2. put the tip of the tongue against the teeth ridge, as for /t/.
3. release the tip of the tongue, let the air flow in (!).
4. release the back of the tongue, but keep it close to the soft palate.
5. while doing 4, let some air flow out, with velar friction (x).
6. lower the soft palate so that the nasal cavity is opened.
7. protrude the lips and put the tongue in position for /u/.
8. start vibrating those vocal chords.
9. let the air flow out of mouth and nose (u~).
10. stop the vocal chords, relax, and try again from 1.

It hasn't worked for me yet, but maybe you'll have better luck!

Miguel Carrasquer Vidal ~ ~
Amsterdam _____________ ~ ~ |_____________|||

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