LINGUIST List 7.838

Fri Jun 7 1996

Sum: Uvular affricate

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Mark Mandel, Sum: Uvular affricate

Message 1: Sum: Uvular affricate

Date: Wed, 05 Jun 1996 21:31:48 CDT
From: Mark Mandel <>
Subject: Sum: Uvular affricate
In LINGUIST 7-785 I asked:

 Is any language, past or present, known to have a uvular
 affricate? I already know that Klingon does, but I'm asking
 about past and present, not future }}};-)\ !

Twenty-one readers responded; to all of them I extend my thanks.
Their names and email addresses appear at the end of this posting.

Klingon (tlhIngan Hol), the language created by Marc Okrand for
the warlike humanoid Klingon species of the Star Trek television
series (plural) and movies, was the inspiration of my question.
While its phonology is so bizarrely asymmetrical that it would
raise serious doubts if reported for an actual human language
(which is part of its alienness), I recognized all of its phonemes
and allophones as attested in human languages, except for the
voiceless uvular affricate <Q>.


These are the languages and language groups cited in response to
my question, with the names of the contributors who cited them.
Many mentioned the Caucasian languages as a group, and many cited
specific Caucasian languages; I have excluded the group from this

 !Xoo [= !Kung ?] : Roser
 /Gwi: (Traill; see Roser)
 Adyghe: Roser
 Arabic: Lonnet
 Aramaic, Old: Hoberman
 Archi: Kingston Roser
 Avar: Kingston Roser
 Chechen: Derzhanski
 Chukchi: Roser
 Georgian: Eccles Widmann
 German: Becker
 German, Swiss: Miller Gasser Lee
 Hopi: Smith
 Ingush: Derzhanski
 Inuktitut: Miller
 Kabardian: Fallon Howard Kingston Smith
 Ket: Roser
 Khoi-San languages: Miller
 Kutenai: Smith
 Lahu: Roser
 Nakh languages: Derzhanski
 Nez Perce: Fallon Howard Kingston
 Ngoni languages: Mc Callister
 Papuan New Guinea languages: Roser
 Schwyzertu"u"tsch [see German, Swiss]
 Sotho-Tswana: Miller
 Tungusic languages: Smith
 Wolof: Fallon Howard Kingston Roser
 Xhosa: Miller


Here is what the respondents said. I have edited these quotations
to minimize duplication without eliminating any substantive

:::::: BECKER ::::::
the Alemannic dialect of German (Old High German to present time)
has a velar affricate which sounds rather uvular to me.

:::::: DERZHANSKI ::::::
Look at the Nakh (North Cantral Caucasian) languages (Chechen and
Ingush). If memory serves and my source (_Jazyki narodov SSSR_
Vol. 4) was correct, they have unvoiced uvular affricates, one
aspirated and one glottalised.

:::::: ECCLES ::::::
The Georgian phoneme usually transcribed q' may come close. It's
usually described as an ejective, but I believe the actual
pronunciation varies.

:::::: FALLON ::::::
Maddieson (1984:225) lists three languages with uvular affricates:
Wolof, Nez Perce, and Kabardian. Kabardian also has a labialized
uvular affricate.

Note also that many languages of the Caucasus with uvular stops
are phonetically affricated as well.

:::::: HOBERMAN ::::::
A uvular affricate could be a good solution to a problem in the
historical development of Old Aramaic, but I wouldn't even think
of that solution if there were no uvular affricates in living

:::::: HOWARD ::::::
In "Patterns of Sounds" (Ian Maddieson, 1984, Cambridge Univ.
Press), several languages are listed:

Voiceless uvular affricate:
Wolof, Nez Perce, Kabardian

Labialized voiceless uvular affricate:

:::::: KINGSTON ::::::
A search of the expanded version of UPSID (451 languages) yielded
5 languages with uvular affricates:

Caucasian: Kabardian: qX, qXw; Archi: qXw, qXw9 (9 =
pharyngealized), qxw', qXw9', qX9, qX', qX9', qX':, qX': and
Avar: qX:, qX':

Also Wolof with qX but no q and Nez Perce with qX but no q; Nez
Perce has q' however.

:::::: LEE ::::::
I believe the southern Swiss German dialects have uvular

:::::: LONNET ::::::
Arabic is not known to have such a sound, but actually some
dialects do have it. For instance in Southern Arabia. It is the
"qaaf" phoneme that sounds as an affricate instead of the (usual)
uvular plosive. (The original proto-sound being an ejective velar
plosive "k'aaf"). In the same region, one may hear another unusual
sound : an ejective uvular fricative, instead of the usual
uvular/velar voiced fricative sound for the "ghayn" phoneme. The
contrast of these two phonemes is a general problem in Arabic
dialectology, and it knows many local solutions. The special point
in Southern Arabia is that there is also some laryngeal ejection
with the affricate, as it is widely the case in the Arabic
dialects with the regular plosive "qaaf".

:::::: MC CALLISTER ::::::
I'm not a linguist, so excuse my ignorance. There is a sound in
Ngoni languages typically represented by DL that sounds like the
closest candidate I can think of, although it's probably really a
fricative. I had a friend in grad school named Lupenga Mphande, a
linguist and African studies person now at Ohio State, who's from
Malawi and described this sound as both uvular and palatal or
alveolar. He said that Zulus use it in the name Dlamini--their
equivalent of "Smith or Jones."

:::::: MILLER ::::::
You can find uvular affricates in Xhosa (spelled <kr>), in Sotho-
Tswana (unless it is a velar affricate -- spelled <kg>)*, possibly
in Schwyzertu"u"tsch** (same qualification as for Sotho-Tswana -
spelled <kch>) and in some Khoi-San languages (again, similar
qualifications), and, I believe, in Inuktitut as a phonetic
variant of /q/.

* As for the Sotho-Tswana question, I meant that I'm not sure
whether <kg> is uvular or velar.

** [u"u" = geminate u-umlaut, if I read correctly the hash that
email made of it. -- MAM]

:::::: ROSER ::::::
Uvular affricates are not terribly common, but do occur in a few
languages, notably languages of the Caucasus, in particular Avar
and Archi (North East Cauc.), Karbardian and some dialects of
Adyghe (North West Cauc.), and possibly others as well. I believe
they also occur as allophones of plain uvular stops in a number of
languages including Chukchi, Lahu and (I think) Ket. Ejective
uvular affricates also occur in the Caucasian languages and Tony
Traill informed me that the San language /Gwi has a uvular
affricate with an 'epenthetic' uvular stop after the fricative,
so: [qX'q] and !Xoo has what is described as a velar affricate
/kx'/ that apparently has some uvular scrape but may or may not be
truly uvular, but, in the Eastern dialects, also has this
'epenthetic' uvular stop, realized as [kx'q] or simply [k'q]
without affrication. I believe that plain uvular (or postvelar-
descriptions vary) affricates also occur allophonically in some
Papuan New Guinea languages, but cannot put my hands on specific
examples. One last example is Wolof in Senegal which has a uvular
fricative that has an affricate allophone (word initial I
believe). Hope this is of help.

:::::: SIEBENHAAR ::::::
Some Swiss german dialects do have uvular frikatives. The Language
Atlas (Schweizerdeutscher Sprachatlas) does not refer to the
uvular affricate but only to the velar one. But as I hear it (and
I'm not the only one) these velar affricates are in some Idiolects
realized as uvular. So the uvular affricate would be an allophone
of the velar affricate as is in other dialect the palatal one.

:::::: SMITH ::::::
Kabardian /q/ is africated prevocalically.
Hopi /q/ is slightly affricated intervocalically.
Kutenai /q/ is [q] ~ [qx] (slightly afficated).

I know of no language with a distinctive /qX/. I suspect that it
will be fairly common as an allophone. Especially in intervocalic
environments, where the occurrence of a voiced fricative allophone
of /q/, i.e. [R] (upside-down), also occurs - in Tungusic
languages, e.g.

:::::: WIDMANN ::::::
The Georgian phoneme /q'/ is uvular and ejective, and the
pronounciation varies between [q'], [qX'], and [X']. This is at
least what the textbooks say, but I have found that my single
informant hardly ever uses the first alternative.


Thomas Becker <>
Peter Daniels <>
Ivan A Derzhanski <>
Lance Eccles <>
Paul Fallon <>
James L. Fidelholtz <>
Mike Gasser <>
Bob Hoberman <>
Tom Howard <>
John Kingston <>
kent lee <>
LONNET Antoine <>
Rick Mc Callister <>
Chris Miller <>
martha r o'kennon <>
Carsten Peust <>
Paul Roser <>
Beat Siebenhaar <>
Norval Smith <>
Thomas Martin Widmann <>
the Woozle <>

 Mark A. Mandel :
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
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