From: "Nathan Richardson" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: my iconic alphabet

> I understand that some
> language speakers have no problem discerning them,
> such as the Arabs with /k/ and /q/.

A Quechua speaker would probably have used as an example those ever-so-close
sounds in English, such as /g/ and /k/.  Or perhaps /z/ and /s/.  Come to
think of it, a Spanish speaker would have had a problem with that as well.
It's all a question of which distinctions your language makes.  Remember
that the ones made in English are not universal, many of them are not even

> That is, does any one language use the postalveolar,
> retroflex, and/or retroflex "sh" sound in a
> semantically distinctive way? Does any one language
> use the alveolar, retroflex, and/or palatal "l" sound
> in a semantically distinctive way? If so, then my
> reaction is "wow!" I need to come up with a lot more
> base shapes for place of articulation.

Mandarin distinguishes alveolar, alveo-palatal, and palatal fricatives and
affricates.  In the Pinyin romanization: s, x, sh; c, q, ch; z, j, zh.

> >> Palatal is the position of for instance the German
> fricative "ch" in "ich". It's quite different in sound
> from the English "sh". <<

Try saying "heat" using more air on the "h".  If you make the airflow rough
at that point, you'll get something like in "ich".

> Does German also have a postalveolar "sh" sound?

Yes.  It's spelled "sch".

> >>In fact, the "r" belongs with the glides
> ("approximants" is the usual term). <<
> On the IPA chart, where is the /w/ sound? I would
> think it would be in the bilabial approximant box, but
> that's empty.

/w/ is a bilabial, but there's also some closure at the velar place of
articulation at the same time.  So it's actually articulated in two separate
columns at the same time, bilabial and velar.  Most IPA charts have it in
the "Other Consonants" category below the main chart.