Thursday, 10 February 2011

The 'ch' sound

The one that activates at the end of the Scots word 'loch' (I'm so English I don't know any other way of referring to it). It's used not at all in English, a little in Scots, more in Welsh and all the time in Dutch. Why? Is there a level where people just really like (or really dislike) the sound of it? Some cultures prefer the sound of massed violins to the sound of massed guitars: is that it? Is it something as random as this that determines how it becomes or doesn't become a part of speech?


Ian Sales said...

The Dutch "g" is more guttural than the Scottish "ch", or even the Arabic "kh". It's perhaps closer to the Arabic "gh". The IPA uses different symbols for each.

Chris said...

Officially it's the voiceless velar fricative /x/, and while it's mostly not used in English English now, the question might be more why it was lost after being so common. It might have been linked to the Great Vowel Shift, although a little chicken/eggy - did /x/ get dropped because the vowel change meant you didn't need to hurt your throat so much, or did a shortage of cough syrup cause the GVS?

Apparently some young people today in use it in place of /k/ in cat. What chutzpah.

(You know what I hate about wikipedia? When you do know a little something about something, but you go and just check it in wikipedia because you don't trust your own memory to be perfect - just checking, it's only wikipedia - and then, with the combination of being reminded of stuff you forgot and something you hadn't considered, ending up sounding a lot more like a wikiprecis than you intended. And then you're tempted to delete all the extra stuff and just make a brief, probably wrong comment rather than look like someone who is just regurgitating and who can't get past the first page of search results. Taking 10 minutes out of your working day to become a little more self-educated isn't always enough compensation.)