X is the 21st and final letter of the original Latin alphabet, adapted via Etruscan from Greek chi (Χ). Since its inception, it has gone on to become one of the "leftover" letters of the Latin alphabet, and has taken on a considerable array of phonetic values, however most commonly, one of /ʃ x ks/.
- 1 Velars
- 2 Further fricatives
- 3 Other consonants
- 4 Oh, but we're not done yet…
The three canonical values (and a few others) of x all involve velar consonants.
Aspirated voiceless velar stop
Or, /kʰ/. The original value of chi. Does anyone use it these days anymore?
The original Latin value, as well as the value of chi in western varieties of the Greek alphabet. This is retained in several natlangs, including English, and has inspired several conlangs to prominently feature the cluster.
- Further examples here.
The cluster has sometimes developed voice in English.
- And elsewhere?
Hindi romanization occasionally uses <x> to transliterate the character <क्ष> /kʃ/.
Spirantization got hang of chi in Greek by the Byzantine times, and the resulting fricativ value was handed down not only to Modern Greek, but also to the Cyrillic kha (Х), and doutlessly inspired by these, also to the IPA; which then begat x as /x/ in many linguist-devised Latin orthographies, natlang or conlang.
- Conlang examples: Olaetian (current transliteration), Tirelat, Zharranh, Tilya, Ludireo, Wanya (Unicode romanization), Jayus
Voiceless fricativ values are not uncommon for x either.
- For some very good reason that has unfortunately been lost to time, the conlang Enzielu uses x for /θ/.
English pronounces initial x as /z/ in words such as xylophone. The original transliteration of the Olaetian alphabet used this letter for a laminal sound /z̻/ (while the apical sound /z̺/ is written z); current practice is to transcribe the laminal sound as ż.
- Please don't tell me you do this (at least, if you are not Vietnamese or Hmong yourself)
- Modern romanizations of Batu use x for /ɬ/. Romanizations of other Isiko languages tend to use the digraph tl.
Portuguese and Old Spanish use x for /ʃ/, a regular sound change from Latin /ks/. A large number of South American natlangs (and some elsewhere) get the same usage from them. Maltese also does this, though probably for unrelated reasons. Popular in conlangs as well.
- List examples here.
Pinyin transcription of Mandarin, likely inspired by the previous, uses x for /ɕ/.
A simialr case as well: while no natlang use is known, Rejistanian writes /ʂ/ as x in the transliteration into the Latin alphabet.
Somali uses x for /ħ/.
- Did your conlang run out of letters, too?
And this is why we call it a "leftover" letter.
/dz/ is found in Albanian and Pashto. We are not sure whichever got it first, and if there is any connection anyway. There's just really no single fitting Latin letter for /dz/ once you've spent z on /z/, and at least this is better than making up some sort of a voiced c (oh, those wacky Turks…)
In the East Cushitic Oromo, x = /tʼ/.
The fellow East Cushitic Afar goes by x = /ɗ/. We suspect this may be cognate with the previous.
- This may not have been his idea, as Nambikwara does the same too.
/ǃ/ and variations thereof are the standard usage of x in Nguni languages such as Zulu.
Oh, but we're not done yet…
(*supervillaneous mad cackle*)
- Iu Mien (that's the "Mien" of Hmong-Mien languages)