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Some languages, like Hebrew, Arabic, and Gaelic, have a guttural ch sound, like the clearing of your throat, as in "Achmed". What is the term for this sound and is there a term to classify a language that has this phoneme in it?

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    There are multiple sounds like that (that may or may not be different phonemes in various languages). What particular Achmed pronunciation do you have in mind? In which particular language? Or do you have a recording?
    – Vladimir F
    May 13 at 9:50
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    In Arabic which is the origin of this name, it is أَحْمَد [ˈ(ʔ)aħmad]. and the sound [ħ] is the voiceless pharyngeal fricative, which is not used in Gaelic, and not used by the majority of the speakers of modern Hebrew. You really have to be more specific as for which sound you mean. Use this IPA consonant chart with audio to spot the exact sound(s) you mean. Look on the right there, among Velar, Uvular, Pharyn­geal/epi­glottal, and Glottal consonants.
    – Yellow Sky
    May 13 at 10:50
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    Having or not having a specific sound does not give a classification of languages. Due to sound changes, sounds come and go in the course of language evolution, and closely related languages often differ in the phoneme inventories. May 13 at 13:06
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You are actually describing a selection of different sounds

Hebrew has one such phoneme:

  • /x~χ/ (the ~ means that both variants are found)
    • /x/ is a voiceless velar fricative: made with the tongue held towards the soft palate close enough that air flows turbulently, but does not stop, without the vocal chords vibrating
    • /χ/ is a voiceless uvular fricative: made with the tongue held towards the uvula at the back of the mouth close enough that air flows turbulently, but does not stop, without the vocal chords vibrating

Arabic has two distinct phonemes:

  • /x~χ/
    • this is the same as in Hebrew
  • /ħ/ (this is actually the phoneme in the name Achmed)
    • a voiceless pharyngeal fricative: made by constricting the throat and/or retracting the root of the throat towards the pharynx so that the air flows turbulently, but does not stop, without the vocal chords vibrating

Scottish Gaelic has two such phomemes:

  • /x/
    • this is the voiceless velar fricative we've seen before (but here it does appear as a uvular)
  • /ç/
    • a voiceless palatal fricative: made with the tongue held towards the hard palate close enough that air flows turbulently, but does not stop, without the vocal chords vibrating

The presence of a particular phoneme is a very poor predictor of the classification of languages. Whilst Hebrew and Arabic are both Central Semitic languages, Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language (within Indo-European), with other languages with one or more of these sounds being German (Germanic within Indo-European), Russian (Slavic within Indo-European), Mandarin (Sinitic within Sino-Tibetan), Georgian (Kartvelian), and many others

That said, if you just want to see languages with these phonemes, PHOIBLE is a useful resource and has lists and maps of languages with the following phonemes linked below (note that PHOIBLE treats symbols with diacritics as distinct segments so languages with e.g. labialised forms of these phonemes won't necessarily be listed). Looking there, a few trends should stand out

  • /ç/ is unusual, but common in the Indian Subcontinent and the Himalayas (note that this area contains at least four unrelated language families)
  • /x/ is commonplace worldwide
  • /χ/ is relatively unusual, but common in the Caucasus, and the Pacific Northwest (note that the Caucasus itself contains three unrelated autochthonous language families, along with two or three other language families, and the Pacific Northwest is also linguistically diverse)
  • /ħ/ is very unusual, but common in the Caucasus, and relative common in the Middle East, and North & East Africa (i.e. areas with strong Arabic influence, but mostly natively speaking Afroasiatic languages even before that)
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Not really, just like there's no specific terminology for classifying all languages that have a [p] or an [m] sound.

Basically the occurrence of one particular phone or phoneme in a language is a rather coincidental trait that holds little predictive value for other phonetic or linguistic traits, and so there hasn't been a need to develop a specific terminology for "languages containing the phoneme /?/" (where /?/ is any given phoneme). That is, the group of languages that contain, say, the phoneme /ħ/, do not generally have anything in common as a group that they don't share with languages who lack this phoneme.

But of course, you can write it out as a full sentence like that (e.g. "languages who contain the phoneme /ħ/" or "languages who contain phonemic dorsal fricatives"), if you really want to group them together.

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