Several Nuu-chah-nulth consonants are made with the back of the tongue:
|Letter||Name||How it is pronounced||Letter||Name||How it is pronounced|
|k||k||like k||kʷ||round k||k plus w|
|q||q||a back k||qʷ||round q||a back k plus w|
|x||x||a hissed k||xʷ||round x||a hissed k plus w|
|x̣||back x||a hissed back k||x̣ʷ||round back x||a hissed back k plus w|
Some of these are pronounced a little further forward on the tongue (k kʷ x xʷ), while others are pronounced further back (q qʷ x̣ x̣ʷ). Both k and q sound to the English ear like k, but q is slightly rougher and lower in pitch, because of its backness. The front (plain) x sounds something like a cat’s hiss, while the back x̣ sounds something like the hawking sound one makes when clearing one’s throat. In addition, all of these consonants can be rounded—that is, pronounced with the lips in a w shape.
Here is another way of looking at the back-of-the-tongue sounds. First, they can be either plosives or fricatives. Plosives involve stopping and then releasing the breath in a small explosion, while fricatives are hissing sounds. Second, these sounds can be pronounced more front, or more back. Third, they can be pronounced with or without rounded lips. The combination of these three possibilities results in eight different consonants:
Here are some examples:
|kʷisaatḥ||from another tribe||tuxʷii||earrings|
The back x̣ and x̣ʷ are rare in Nuu-chah-nulth, but are found in a few words.