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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?

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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.

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    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 '17 at 10:16
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    @Typo that's right. – OmarL Feb 12 '17 at 11:03
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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.

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  • 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 '17 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 '17 at 20:24
  • @LjL In all Indo-Aryan languages the aspiration is much stronger than in English "cat". – fdb Feb 14 '17 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 '17 at 22:12

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