I've been trying to learn German (not really) and I've come across the [x] sound. When I hear audio clips of it, it sounds really similar (almost identical) to [kʰ]. I have [kʰ] in my native language (Bengali). I've done a little research (not much because many places have too difficult of a wording for me) and seen that both the sounds are made around the same place. So, is it different or not?

2 Answers 2


They are indeed articulated in the same place, namely the part of the palate called velum. These are, then, velar consonants. The difference lies in the manner of articulation. [kʰ] is an aspirated stop, whilst [x] is a fricative.

  • 3
    Oh I see. So in the case of the aspirated stop, all the air in the mouth gets blocked until release, whereas the fricative has a continuous airflow?
    – Typo
    Feb 12, 2017 at 10:16
  • 1
    @Typo that's right. Feb 12, 2017 at 11:03

My understanding is that in some dialects of Bengali, especially that of Sylhet, orthographic খ /kʰ/ is in fact realised as [x]. In these dialects the difference to German [x] is slight.

  • I don't know Bengali at all, but when [kʰ] is actually that, then it's the sound in the English word "cat". It is a [k] short followed by an aspiration, [h], and languages where [k] isn't aspirated tend to pronounce it in a way that, to English speakers, sounds like a [g] instead (because English [g], like in "get", is not aspirated).
    – LjL
    Feb 12, 2017 at 15:11
  • @LjL Yes, I'm aware. Also, the sound in "come" is a bit different from the Bengali usage of [kʰ], I'd say the Bengali one is more "exaggerated".
    – Typo
    Feb 14, 2017 at 20:24
  • @LjL In all Indo-Aryan languages the aspiration is much stronger than in English "cat".
    – fdb
    Feb 14, 2017 at 22:10
  • Whether it's stronger, I don't know, but for what it's worth, if I put খ into Google Translate and use its speech synthesis, it's definitely not rendered as any sort of [kʰ] at all, but in fact much more like [x], while if I make it say खा in Hindi, it is [kʰ] and I don't really hear it as sounding any stronger than in English "cat".
    – LjL
    Feb 15, 2017 at 22:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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