Xhosa, a language of southern Africa, has nine different phonemic clicks in it. Each distinct click has a place of articulation and a voicing type.

There are three places of articulation for Xhosa clicks. The first is the lateral click, made with the side of the tongue, similar to the sound made by carriage drivers to tell their horses to move. The second is an alveolar click, made with the front of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, at the front of the roof of the mouth; this sound is like the 'tock' made when imitating the 'tick-tock' of a grandfather clock. The third is a dental click, made by placing the tip of the tongue against the back of the teeth, and then pulling the tongue back. In Roman letters, the lateral click is written as 'x', the alveolar click as 'q', and the dental click as 'c'.

There are also three voicing types.* The first is an aspiration, a sharp exhalation along with the click, as if saying the 'h' sound of English while making the click. The second is a nasalized click, voicing a nasal hum as with the English letter 'n'. The third is made without voicing of any kind. In Roman letters, the aspirated voicing is written with the letter 'h' following the letter for the click, the nasal voicing with the letter 'n' following the click, and no voicing is indicated with no special letter following the click.

As an example, the name of the language, Khosa, begins with an aspirated, lateral click. Non-native Khosa speakers who have trouble with the clicks may pronounce the lateral ('k') and alveolar ('q') clicks as the English 'k', and the dental ('c') click as the English 'ch'.


*Actually, only one of the three of what I call voicing types is actually anything like voicing. I'm calling them voicing types because I can't think of anything better to call them.

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