I have a new student who asked me to go over the pronunciation guide in each of his dictionaires. To my surprise, the sample word given for the consonant symbol "x" was "LOCH".
Can anyone shed some light on this? I have always pronounced "loch" as "lock", even though I know the Scottish would pronounce the "ch" differently.
What does the consonant sound "X" have to do with the pronunciation of "loch"?
Thanks in advance,
Pope of the Dictionary.com Forum
These sounds are very common in the Romance and Slavic family of languages, where they are rendered as 'x' in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. For example:
In Spanish, 'intoxicado' is pronounced very similarly to 'intochicado', with the Scottish Gallic pronounciation of 'ch' (as in 'loch').
In Bulgarian, 'xybaB' ('nice') is pronounced 'choobaf', with the same Celtic 'ch'.
English speakers tend to pronounce the Celtic 'ch' as 'k' (as you suggest), but they are often aware of the 'true' pronounciation, so textbooks teaching English speakers to say 'x' in a foreign language often use 'loch' as an example. This may be a case of the reverse situation.
Thanks so much for your excellent response! ;)
It's a similar sound as in:
German "ch" in "Bach"
Greek χ -- usually transliterated "ch" as in "Christos"
Russian х -- usually transliterated "kh" as in "Khrushchev"
The sound doesn't occur in English, so very often it's replaced by [k] -- as in "Christ" (from Greek Χριστος). If you want to pronounce it, it's a rasping sound made near the back of the mouth, rather like the sound you make when (this is unpleasant) trying to clear your throat of phlegm.
By the way:
Catherine, I think what you're looking at is the International Phonetic Alphabet, or something based on it.
The IPA is basically an agreed system of representing sounds. The problem is that when describing how words are pronounced in different languages, it's not always very easy. For example, you might say, "This letter sounds like a 'j'", but if you ask an English speaker, a German speaker, a Spanish speaker and a French speaker what a "j" sounds like, you get four different answers. Even if you say, "It sounds like a French 'j'", if you don't know what a French "j" sounds like, you're still stuck.
Instead, there is an internationally agreed system which is often used in dictionaries, especially bilingual dictionaries. For "j", these symbols are:
These are then described using a terminology that is also understood worldwide -- so the French "j" is actually a "voiced postalveolar fricative", and that tells linguists exactly how to pronounce it, even if they don't know French.
There is a difference between the symbols used to represent sounds and the sounds themselves. Thus the English "x" in "exit" is represented in IPA as [ks] (British pronunciation) or [gz] (US pronunciation).
Thanks very much for this information. I have learned a lot by posting this question and will now hopefully be able to explain it to my student!
(Some English speakers produce this sound unknowingly, in contexts where the /k/ is followed by a /h/ . So it's a bit risky to say things like 'This sound doesn't occur in English'; what people usually mean when they say this is 'English doesn't use this sound in meaning-bearing distinctions'. On my CELTA course, doing an exercise that had the word 'zloty' in it, I made the mistake of saying to my students "Don't worry about this 'zl' sound if you find it difficult; it only occurs in a few borrowed words". Thinking about it later, I realized that in current speech /zl/ occurs quite often - in "he's left", for example.)
ps - Just seen that a previous poster said it was uvular. Sorry - didn't mean to correct anyone I've just always thought this was velar in Scots. I must listen again.
Last edited by BobK; 02-Oct-2006 at 10:42. Reason: ps added
To be sure, the difference between "velar" and "ulveolar" is very small. I think I just dislocated by tongue trying to pronounce velar and uveolar fricatives in quick succession...