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There are languages (English among them) that have a voiceless labialized velar approximant (ʍ in IPA), but that's not quite the sound I'm after. I'm also trying to distinguish this sound from aspiration as a phonemic attribute (e.g. "t" and "tʰ", like the "t" and "th" in Vietnamese). Spoken French has something a little like this, but ingressive, not egressive (the "fast gasp", meaning "Yep, uh-huh"). Has anyone bumped into anything like this?

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    How about [h]? – Draconis Jul 11 at 19:15
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Many languages have sounds that could be called puffs of air, which may be transcribed as [ɸ w̥ ʍ h ɦ hʷ] People generally blow out candles with pursed lips, which could reduce the set of candidates to [ɸ w̥ ʍ hʷ]. "Puff", however, implies a higher rate of flow that encountered in [hʷ] or even [ɸ] -- perhaps the aspiration of [tʰ] is closer to a "puff". [ɸ] is not "like" the puff of air used to extinguish a candle (the rate of airflow is not high enough to actually do the job). To get a "puff", you need a substantial pressure buildup, which requiresnot only a supraglottal constriction, but extra expiratory force above the normal level of human speech. Of course, if you define "puff" suitably, then there might be a number of sounds that qualify. I just experimentally verified that it is possible to extinguish a candle with the ejective consonant [t'].

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  • Given that ejective [t’] tends to have very short VOT, equivalent more to voiced than to aspirated consonants, if that’s enough to extinguish a candle, it seems more or less any oral consonant or vowel ought to be. This seems unlikely. An aspirated [tʰ] sounds reasonable, but ejective [t’]? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 11 at 22:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet An ejective has a sharp release of air (just not coming from the lungs), so I wouldn't be surprised if [t’] is better at extinguishing a candle than [t] or [d]. I'll have to find a candle to test this later. – Draconis Jul 11 at 22:54
  • @Draconis An ejective produces no more air flow than a glottal stop; when you say ‘uh-oh’, you’re producing two ejectives, but if you put your hand to your mouth, you’ll notice the strongest puff of air comes during the vowel, not at the release. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 11 at 22:56
  • The high velocity is the key to success with an ejective. Also, [t'] because the burst is very concentrated (smaller cross-sectional area), compared to [p']. It may be that the type of ejective matters, i.e. Salishan vs. Bantu (my ejectives are Lushootseed based). – user6726 Jul 11 at 23:11

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