Consonants: Back of the mouth sounds kw, hw, q, qw, x, xw


Most of the sounds in this section do not occur in English. The two sounds that do (kw and ’) are not written with the same symbols. So mastery of these sounds will take a little practice.

What all of these sounds have in common is that they are made in the back of the mouth. Two sounds (kw and hw) are made on the soft palate (the velum), four of the sounds (q, qw, x, and xw) are made even further back than this on the uvula (tthu mul’qw). This is the flap in the back of the mouth that you wiggle when you gargle. The last sound (’) is made with the vocal folds or glottis down in your throat.

The velars

kw

This the same sound as qu in queen or quack. It is a k pronounced with rounded lips. We will write a w next to the k to show that the lips are rounded. Pronounce kw as a single sound.

‘star’
‘to take it’
‘to hide’
‘to fight’
‘day, sky’
‘to cook’
‘book’
Reading Practice

Can you read these English words? They are written in the Hul’q’umi’num’ alphabet.

kweyk
skwash
ikwul
kweschun
kwantum liip

Writing Practice

Write these English words with the Hul’q’umi’num’ alphabet.

queen
squat
quest
squeak
quiche

 

hw

This letter stands for a sound that Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers know as the first and last sound in the word hwulmuhw “First Nations person”. It is made in the same part of the mouth as kw. It can be pronounced by trying to whistle while pressing the center part of the tongue against the roof of the mouth, rounding the lips as you do it. The w next to the h show that the lips are rounded.

‘First Nations person’
‘White person’
‘to come forward’
‘to get down’
‘to go where?’
‘canoe’
‘tongue’
‘to fade away’
‘root’
‘person, people’
‘land, earth’

 

q

We use the letter q to stand for a sound similar to k, but made further back in the mouth. Speakers of Hul’q’umi’num’ know it as the first and last sound of the word qeq “baby”. You can make this sound by pressing down the tip of your tongue with a pencil and trying to say k.

‘baby’
‘bad’
‘nose’
‘to dive’
‘house post’
‘horse’
‘tree’
‘potato’
‘to snow’
qw

This sound is made by pronouncing q with rounded lips. We will write a w next to the letter to show that the lips are rounded.

‘whale’
‘to speak’
‘speech’
‘to stink’
‘to burn’
‘horse’
‘(rope) to get slack’
‘(rope) to get tight’
‘to get mixed in’

The Way Back Raspy Sounds

x

We use x for the first sound of the Hul’q’umi’num’ word xulh “to hurt or ache”. It is a sound made way back in the mouth in the same place as Hul’q’umi’num’ q. The back part of the tongue is held against the uvula as the air is blown out. Listen carefully to the teacher and then try to say the words.

‘box’
‘rib’
‘salmon eggs’
‘to be lots’
‘finger’
‘toe’
‘to stand’
‘to cry’
xw

The speakers of Hul’q’umi’num’ know this letter as the first sound in the word xwum “fast”. There is no English sound like it. It is made way back in the mouth. The back part of the tongue approaches the uvula as the air is blown out while the lips are rounded. We will write a w next to the x to show that the lips are rounded.

‘fast’
‘to kill them’
‘to run’
‘blanket’
‘to wade’
‘soapberry’
‘to miss’