Ejective consonant

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Manners of articulation
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Ejective consonants are a class of consonants which may contrast with aspirated or unaspirated consonants in a language.

Ejectives are voiceless consonants which are pronounced with simultaneous glottal closure. The glottis is raised while the forward articulation (a [k] in the case of ) is held, raising air pressure in the mouth, so that when the [k] is released, there is a noticeable burst of air. The adam's apple may be seen moving when the sound is pronounced. In the languages where they are more obvious, ejectives are often described as sounding like "spat" consonants, but ejectivity is often quite weak; in some contexts, and in some languages, they are easy to mistake for unaspirated plosives.

Technically speaking, ejectives are glottalic egressive consonants. The most common ejective is , as it is easy to raise the necessary pressure within the small oral cavity used to pronounce a [k]. , on the other hand, is quite rare. (This is the opposite pattern to what is found in the implosive consonants, where it's the bilabial that is common and the velar that is rare.) Ejective fricatives are rare for presumably the same reason: with the air escaping from the mouth while the pressure is being raised, like inflating a leaky bicycle tire, it's harder to make the resulting sound as salient as a .

Ejectives occur in about 15% of languages around the world. They are extremely common in northwest North America, and frequently occur throughout the western parts of both North and South America. They are also common in eastern and southern Africa. In Eurasia, the Caucasus form an island of ejective languages. Elsewhere they are rare.

Language families which utilise ejective consonants include all three Caucasian families (Circassian, Dagestanian and Kartvelian (Georgian)), as well as nearby Armenian (the only Indo-European language to do so); the Athabaskan and Salishan families of North America, along with the many diverse families of the Pacific Northwest from northern California to British Columbia; the Mayan family and Aymara; the Afro-Asiatic family (notably Amharic and Hausa) and Nilo-Saharan languages; and the Khoisan family of southern Africa. Among the scattered languages with ejectives elsewhere are Itelmen of the Chukotko-Kamchatkan languages and Yapese of the Austronesian family.

The vast majority of ejective consonants noted in the world's languages are plosives or affricates, and all are obstruents. Among affricates, are all quite common, and is not unusual (at least among the Khoisan languages). A few languages utilise ejective fricatives: in some dialects of Hausa, the standard affricate is a fricative ; Ubykh (Northwest Caucasian) has an ejective lateral fricative; the Upper Necaxa dialect of the Totonac language has an ejective labiodental fricative; and Kabardian uses both of these in addition to ejective alveolopalatal and postalveolar fricatives. Tlingit is another extreme case, with ejective alveolar, lateral, velar, and uvular fricatives; it may be the only language with the latter.

Strangely, although an ejective retroflex stop is easy to make and quite distinctive in its sound, it has not been reported to occur.

Ejective sonorants do not occur. When sonorants are written as if they were ejective, they actually involve a different airstream mechanism: they are glottalized consonants and vowels, where glottalization interrupts an otherwise normal pulmonic airstream, somewhat like English uh-uh pronounced as a single sound.

Sample list of ejective consonants:

See also

ko:방출음 ja:放出音


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