Skip to main content

Xhosa is hard to say

Over at The The Crux, Julie Sedivy has an interesting breakdown of how clicks are used in both African languages and English:
If clicks do sound like exotic noises to you, it might surprise you to know that there’s nothing especially difficult about making click sounds in speech—they’re easily mastered by toddlers who still struggle making truly difficult sounds like s and z. And it might really surprise you to learn, as found in a recent study by Melissa Wright at Birmingham City University, that as an English speaker, you likely riddle your own speech with click sounds, using them much more frequently and systematically than just the occasional “tsk” of disapproval. If that’s so, why on earth do the African clicks sound so strange to English speakers, to the point of being un-language-like?
It's a good post, and that might be an easy thing for toddlers to learn, but as a grown adult, it is devilishly tricky to master even the three basic click sounds in Zulu and Xhosa. Especially the "q" sound, which involves popping your tongue off the roof of your mouth. During a vacation in Eastern Cape once, it took me hours of practice to just be able to make the noise right, let alone stick it in a word with anything approaching accuracy.

Comments

  1. Hi Ryan, really liked this small piece on Xhosa and click language. I would like to share it with my history Prof at PU, but I don't know how exactly. Can you help? Thanks, B
    PS: Congrats on becoming the Business Manager of Washington Monthly.
    B

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, it's just a temp job for the time being. Might only last a couple more weeks. Getting paid sure is nice though.

    As far as sharing it, you can use the little bar at the bottom (to the left of "Recommend this on Google"), or you can just email the link http://www.ryanlouiscooper.com/2012/02/xhosa-is-hard-to-say.html

    Does that answer your question?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, thanks, Ryan. I appreciate it. Sorry for my ignorance, B.

      Delete
    2. Hah, no worries! I'm here for my loyal fans :)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

The Basic Instinct of Socialism

This year I finally decided to stop beating around the bush and start calling myself a democratic socialist. I think the reason for the long hesitation is the very long record of horrifying atrocities carried out by self-described socialist countries. Of course, there is no social system that doesn't have a long, bloody rap sheet, capitalism very much included . But I've never described myself as a capitalist either, and the whole point of socialism is that it's supposed to be better than that. So of course I cannot be a tankie — Stalin and Mao were evil, terrible butchers, some of the worst people who ever lived. There are two basic lessons to be learned from the failures of Soviet and Chinese Communism, I think. One is that Marxism-Leninism is not a just or workable system. One cannot simply skip over capitalist development, and any socialist project must be democratic and preserve basic liberal freedoms. The second, perhaps more profound lesson, is that there is no s

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha