Is there a standard IPA equivalent of the gargle-ish sound you make when you clear phlegm out of your throat, like when you pronounce 'Achmed', where the 'ch' is the 'phlegm' sound?

  • Great question! It's gotta be a voiced fricative, but what's the physiology? Is it pharyngeal or epiglottal or laryngeal? – StoneyB Jun 11 '17 at 14:26
  • 1
    What kind of phlegm? Normal, everyday stuff or greenish stuff lodged in one's sinuses? Also, what do you mean by 'extract out of'? Do you mean 'to gather into one' or 'to expel'/'spit'? – green_ideas Jun 11 '17 at 14:34
  • 2
    It'd be some kind of pharyngeal constriction; the pharynx only has smooth muscles, so it can't do much in the way of articulation, but it can constrict. That's how you make a whole series of consonants in Arabic, for instance. – John Lawler Jun 11 '17 at 14:37
  • 1
    @GregoryLeo In Ahmed (in Arabic), the consonant is generally a voiceless pharyngeal fricative, but that sound is not necessarily the same as any sound you would produce when coughing up phlegm. There are many different ways of doing that, and they produce different sounds. Are you talking about the speech sound found in Arabic (but not in English), or a term to cover all the different hacking noises you might make when you gather/cough up phlegm? – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 11 '17 at 16:15
  • 1
    If you need it as notation, [clears throat] would probably suffice. – marcellothearcane Jun 11 '17 at 19:35

The OP has clarified the question in comments, so I'll try to provide an actual answer.

like when you pronounce 'Achmed' where the 'ch' is the 'phlegm' sound.

My understanding is that the name is not correctly pronounced with the throat-clearing ch sound, but people are familiar with hearing that and the intent is clear.

There are several familiar words that incorporate this sound: the Scottish pronunciation of loch, and the German word achtung.

The throat clearing sound in these words is the voiceless velar fricative /x/ (IPA symbol is English letter x). See Wikipedia discussion with recording

  • In Arabic, the name is indeed pronounced differently, with a voiceless pharyngeal fricative /ħ/ (as opposed to /x/, which is a voiceless velar fricative). In other words, it’s further back in the throat than the English /x/ sound. Both are fairly ‘phlegmy’, though. In English, how people pronounce Ahmed varies a lot: some say /ɑːˈmed/, some say /ˈɑːh.med/, some say /ˈɑ(ː)xmed/, some say /ˈɑ(ː)kmed/, and some have probably even heard it pronounced in Arabic enough times to approximate and say /ɑħmæd/. It wasn’t the best choice of word to illustrate which sound was intended. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 17 '18 at 23:43

I believe it's ḥ, though it depends on whether you're referring to the Arabic hard sound or the slightly softer one that sounds like and in between of the aforementioned and an English "h"

  • It’s definitely not ḥ, no. That’s not IPA at all, which is what the question is asking for. A dot is not a diacritic used in IPA. ⟨ḥ⟩ is a letter commonly used when transcribing Arabic, but the IPA for the corresponding sound is [ħ]. Also, “that sounds like and in between of the aforementioned” does not make any sense. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 17 '18 at 23:37
  • Welcome to EL&U. Please improve your answer by adding references. – Rupert Morrish Jan 18 '18 at 0:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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