|Voiced labial click|
|Nasal labial click|
The bilabial clicks are a family of click consonants that sound something like a smack of the lips. They are found as phonemes only in the small Tuu language family (currently two languages, one moribund), in the ?'Amkoe language of Botswana (also moribund), and in the extinct Damin ritual jargon of Australia. However, bilabial clicks are found paralinguistically for a kiss in various languages, including integrated into a greeting in the Hadza language of Tanzania, and as allophones of labial-velar stops in some West African languages (Ladefoged 1968), as of /mw/ in some of the languages neighboring Shona, such as Ndau and Tonga.
The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨?⟩. This may be combined with a second letter to indicate the manner of articulation, though this is commonly omitted for tenuis clicks, and increasingly a diacritic is used instead. Common labial clicks are:
|Trans. I||Trans. II||Trans. III||Description|
|⟨k⟩||⟨⟩||⟨?⟩||tenuis bilabial click|
|⟨k⟩||⟨⟩||⟨⟩||aspirated bilabial click|
|⟨⟩||⟨⟩||⟨⟩||voiced bilabial click|
|⟨⟩||⟨⟩||⟨⟩||bilabial nasal click|
|⟨⟩||⟨?⟩||⟨?⟩||aspirated bilabial nasal click|
|⟨?⟩||⟨⟩||⟨⟩||glottalized bilabial nasal click|
|⟨q⟩||⟨q?⟩||tenuis bilabial click|
|⟨q⟩||⟨q⟩||aspirated bilabial click|
|⟨⟩||⟨??⟩||voiced bilabial click|
|⟨⟩||⟨⟩||bilabial nasal click|
|⟨⟩||⟨?⟩||aspirated bilabial nasal click|
|⟨?⟩||⟨⟩||glottalized bilabial nasal click|
The last is what is heard in the sound sample at right, as non-native speakers tend to glottalize clicks to avoid nasalizing them.
Damin also had an egressive bilabial , which may be an egressive click (if it is not buccal).
Features of ingressive labial clicks:
The labial clicks are sometimes erroneously described as sounding like a kiss. However, they do not have the pursed lips of a kiss. Instead, the lips are compressed, more like a [p] than a [w], and they sound more like a noisy smack of the lips than a kiss.
The bullseye or bull's eye (?) symbol used in phonetic transcription of the phoneme was made an official part of the International Phonetic Alphabet in 1979, but had existed for at least 50 years earlier. It is encoded in Unicode as U+0298 LATIN LETTER BILABIAL CLICK.
Similar graphemes consisting of a circled dot encoded by Unicode are:
] It was never widely used and was eventually dropped for ?. Still the deprecated IPA character is encoded at ɋ LATIN SMALL LETTER Q WITH HOOK TAIL (HTML
ɋ). Earlier it is privately encoded by SIL International at <private-use-F211> and is available in SIL supporting fonts.
Labial clicks may have arisen historically from labialization of other places of articulation. Starostin (2003) notes that the ?'Amkoe words for 'one' and 'two', // and /?oa/, have labial clicks whereas no other Khoisan language has a labial consonant of any kind in its words for these numerals, and Starostin (2007) and Sands reconstruct a series of labialized clicks in Proto-Kx'a, which became labial clicks in ?'Amkoe. In Hadza, the word for 'kiss', /ua/, becomes a mimetic /a/ or /a/ in greetings.