The guttural, or throat consonants are made low in the throat:
|Letter||Name||How it is pronounced|
|ḥ||back h||like breathing on glass to clean it|
|ʔ||glottal stop||a catch in the throat, as in uh-oh|
|ʕ||pharyngeal stop||a catch in the throat plus an r sound|
The plain h and glottal stop (ʔ) are both glottal sounds. This means that they are made at the vocal cords, which are at the very bottom of the throat. By contrast, the back ḥ and pharyngeal stop (ʕ) are pharyngeal sounds. They are made with the tongue root against the back of the throat, a little bit above the vocal cords.
|(tongue root)||(vocal cords)|
The glottal stop (ʔ) is just a catch in the throat. It is made by using the vocal cords to briefly stop the flow of air from the lungs. In English, the glottal stop is often pronounced just before vowels, but is never written. For example, there are two glottal stops in the English word uh-oh. In Nuu-chah-nulth, the glottal stop is written, and can change the meaning of a word.
To pronounce the pharyngeal stop (ʕ), make a glottal stop plus a weak r sound. With some speakers, this consonant can sound almost identical to the glottal stop (ʔ), while with other speakers, ʕ and ʔ are clearly different.
To pronounce the back ḥ, tense your throat and exhale roughly, as if you were breathing on glass to clean it.
Here are some examples:
|ʔiihaa||Wow! What the!||ʔiiḥ||big|
While the glottal sounds (h ʔ) are not difficult for English speakers, the pharyngeal sounds (ḥ ʕ) tend to be more difficult.