LINGUIST List 14.1250

Sun May 4 2003

Sum: Paralinguistic Clicks

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <stevelinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Mark Jones, Paralinguictic clicks (summary)

Message 1: Paralinguictic clicks (summary)

Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 09:11:25 +0000
From: Mark Jones <paralinguistic_clickshotmail.com>
Subject: Paralinguictic clicks (summary)

Re: Paralinguistic clicks

Some weeks ago (March 17th) I posted a query (Linguist 14.762) about
the use of paralinguistic clicks. The aim was to determine:

1) paralinguistic click use;
2) which clicks are used;
3) what they symbolise;
4) whether repetition is common, e.g. as in English ''tuttut;'.
5) writing conventions.

**

David Gil, of the Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig is writing a chapter on
paralinguistic clicks for the World Atlas of Language Structures with
data from over 150 languages.

The responses I received are summarised below.

Dental clicks were the most commonly reported, occurring in English,
Swedish, German, French, Greek, Vietnamese, Turkish, Ukrainian,
Israeli Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Marathi.

Meanings varied. Many languages (English, French, Spanish, Brazilian
Portuguese, German, Swedish, Vietnamese, German, Ukrainian, Israeli
Hebrew, and Marathi) used the [/] to express sympathy and or
disapproval. These two meanings were often mentioned
together. Repeated clicks appear to be very common (not Vietnamese).

Meaning differences may be attached to the repetition, with a longer
series denoting more sympathy in some languages. They may also be
threatening (in English). Turkish uses a long series of [/] clicks for
astonishment, and one for negation (see below).

Other languages (Italian, Greek, Turkish, Israeli Hebrew, Albanian,
Bulgarian) used one [/] (often with lip-rounding) to express 'no'. A
backward movement of the head accompanies this.

Israeli Hebrew is reported to have labialised [/] for 'no' and [/] for
hesitation.

Other clicks were far less frequent. Bilabial clicks were reported for
English and Spanish to indicate approval. It was suggested that this
might be a vulgar usage by men towards women in Spanish.

Lateral clicks were reportedly used to urge horses in a number of
languages (English, German, Swedish, French, Brazilian Portuguese),
but symbolise disgust in Marathi.

A retroflex click [!] might indicate surprise or embarrassment in
English, or be used to stop a horse.

A palatal click in Marathi can express refusal. In English, this may
represent distaste.

Brazilian Portuguese uses a dental click + the syllable [ah] to
express disgust.

Most reports did not mention written forms. Vietnamese uses the form
''chak'' (with a subscript dot and hacek on the 'a' to illustrate
tone) for [/]. German [/] may be written ''ts ts ts'' and pronounced
[ts ts ts]. It may also be so pronounced (just as 'tut tut' can be
in English). Note that the spelling is not ''z z z''.

My thanks to those who contributed info on clicks: Hany Babu, Sarah
Bunin Benor, Daniel Buncic, Phillip Carr, Gabi Danon, James
L. Fidelholtz, David Gil, Larry Horn, David Palfreyman, Mikael
Parkvall, Andrea Pham, Christina Tortora, Rémy Viredaz, Dom Watt,
Sabine Zerbian, and Ana Zilles.

If anyone is inspired to contact me with more information (both
positive and negative, i.e. ''my language does *not* have clicks''),
please feel free to get in touch at paralinguistic_clickshotmail.com.

Many thanks,

Mark

Mark J. Jones
Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge 
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue