5 Most Unusual Consonants

It’s time to cover the most unusual sounds you can make in the languages you speak 🙂

1. Voiceless dental fricative

You know the “th” sound you pronounce in “thing”, “theta” etc? This is actually a rare consonant you’re making there, my friends. English, Modern Standard Arabic, Burmese, Greek and Standard European Spanish are among the most common languages to have this consonant. Among these, regional varieties are losing this consonant in favour of the voiceless dental stop, better known as the “t” sound. This is especially prevalent in the modern varieties of Arabic.

2. The click consonants

There are 5 main click sounds you can make, the dental (you know, that tsk-tsk sound), palatal, alveolar, lateral and bilabial clicks, but you can voice them, nasalise them and all sorts, leading to a huge click consonant inventory, especially in the Khoisan languages. N|uuki, Ju|’hoan and !Xóõ are such examples of the Khoisan languages, with !Xóõ having as many as 111 click consonants! Click consonants are also present in other languages like isiXhosa and isiZulu of the Bantu languages, and Dahalo, spoken in Kenya.

3. Apicolabial consonants

Found in a cluster of languages in Vanuatu, like Araki, and the Kajoko dialect of Bijago in Guines-Bissau, apicolabial consonants are among the rarest consonants in the world, though not representative of exotic combination of articulatory configurations. These consonants are pronounced with the tip of the tongue against the upper lip, and the upper lip is drawn down to meet the tongue.

4. Voiceless bilabially post-trilled dental stop

Whoa, that’s a mouthful right there. Observed in PirahĂŁ, Oro Win and the Wari’, this consonant is made by bubbling your lips after making a “t” sound at the start. This consonant was discovered in the PirahĂŁ as recent as 2004 by Everett.

5. Labial-velar consonants

Igbo isn’t really pronounced Ig-bo, because the “g” and “b” are pronounced simultaneously, more rather the velar is pronounced first, then the bilabial closure in rapid succession, then the release of the lips. These consonants are found in many languages in West and Central Africa and East Papua New Guinea. Probably the most popular example is in the language Igbo, where you can’t say the language right unless you use the voiced labial-velar consonant.

So yeah, this concludes my post on the 5 most unusual consonants. Stay tuned for more~

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