2

When an English speaker uses a dental click [ǀ] to express shame or pity (or in Spanish as a sign of confusion), is that a word? What is the linguistic term for it?

PS: I wondered about this after browsing through the wiki article on click consonants.

2

Not by usual standards of what a "word" is. It is a communicative sign, but there are tons of sounds that you can make with the face or other body parts that convey something, and "words" are not simply "communicative signs". A word is part of a rule-governed linguistic system of coding. Consider the difference between an actual imitation of a cow mooing, which I'll write as *MOO*, and the word "moo". You can say "The cow is mooing", but you can't say "The cow is *MOO*ing". There are myriad created words that represent communicative sounds, such as "brap" for "*BELCH*". Although they are marginal as words, there are words that stand for the clicky sound of disapproval, namely "tisk" and "tut".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.