The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the place of articulation of these sounds is ⟨ǃ⟩. The symbol is not an exclamation mark in origin, but rather a pipe with a subscript dot ( ⟨ǀ̣⟩ ), the old diacritic for retroflex consonants. Prior to 1989, ⟨ʗ⟩ was the IPA representation of the tenuis postalveolar click, and this is still preferred by some phoneticians. The tail of ⟨ʗ⟩ may be the tail of retroflex consonants in the IPA, and thus analogous to the underdot of ⟨ǃ⟩. Either letter may be combined with a second letter to indicate the manner of articulation, though this is commonly omitted for tenuis clicks, and increasingly a diacritic is used instead.
The forward place of articulation is alveolar or postalveolar, depending on the language, and apical, which means it is articulated with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge or the roof of the mouth behind the alveolar ridge. (Damin contrasted these two articulations as separate phonemes.) The release is a sharp, plosive-like sound in southern Africa, but in Hadza and Sandawe they are frequently flapped, with the underside of the tip of the tongue striking the floor of the mouth after the release of the click; in some cases, the release is rather faint, and it is this sub-apical percussive sound that dominates.
Clicks may be oral or nasal, which means that the airflow is either restricted to the mouth, or passes through the nose as well.
They are central consonants, which means they are produced by releasing the airstream at the center of the tongue, rather than at the sides.
English does not have an alveolar click (or any click consonant, for that matter) as a phoneme, but a plain alveolar click does occur in mimesis, as a sound children use to imitate a horse trotting.
Ekoka !Xung has a series of alveolar-to-postalveolar clicks which derive historically from palatal clicks. Unlike regular alveolar clicks, which also occur in Ekoka !Xung, these are affricates: instead of the abrupt release typical of alveolar clicks, they have a slow, turbulent release that sounds much like an [s], Template:IPAblink, or Template:IPAblink. Like the palatal clicks they derive from, they do not have the retracted tongue root and back-vowel constraint typical of alveolar clicks. The recommended transcription for the tenuis click is: ǃ͡s.
↑The original Kirshembaum proposal assigned ⟨c!⟩ to IPA ⟨ʗ⟩, which it used indifferently for both alveolar and palatal clicks. Using ⟨c!⟩ for ⟨ǂ⟩ and ⟨t.!⟩ for ⟨ǃ⟩ in more in keeping with the philosophy of the proposal, which was that the !-diacritic for clicks should accompany the homorganic stop.