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Voiceless velar fricative
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The voiceless velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is x, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is x. The [x] sound is rare in, but not completely absent from English. To give English speakers an example of the sound with which they might be familiar, consider the sound represented by "ch" in Scottish loch or Hebrew Chanukah.
Features of the voiceless velar fricative:
- Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence.
- Its place of articulation is velar which means it is articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the velum).
- Its phonation type is voiceless, which means the vocal cords are not vibrating during the articulation.
- It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
- It is a central consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the middle of the tongue, rather than the sides.
- The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.
Varieties of [x]
Standard English does not have [x], except for a few loan words such as Scottish loch /lɒx/ and Hebrew Chanukah /xanukaː/. Where it occurs, it is nearly always represented by a "ch." Many speakers, especially in the United States, do not (often cannot) make this sound, and are sometimes not even aware of its existence; these speakers replace it with [h] in words such as "chutzpah" or "challah," or [k] in words such as "loch" or "leprechaun." These alternative pronunciations are considered acceptable by most authorities.
Some dialects in England, particularly London and Liverpool, may have [x] where other dialects have [k], as in cat. In London it is a younger, lower-class pronunciation.
In other languages
The [x] sound is a somewhat common sound cross-linguistically and very common in Assamese.
Georgian has unaspirated [x]. It is spelled with ხ.
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