I was listening to a recording of a story in Welsh the other day and it occurred to me that one of the sounds I was hearing doesn’t really have an accepted phonetic description. This is the sound which is written with the digraph <ch>.This sound is usually labelled as a voiceless uvular fricative and has the phonetic symbol χ. The sound produced by the speaker in the recording was certainly voiceless, uvular and fricative, but the label misses something important about the sound I was hearing. I’d better not use a clip from the recording for copyright reasons, but below is a sentence in Welsh spoken by yours truly in which I have done my best to produce the type of fricative the Welsh speaker used. The sentence means What is your name? Click on the sentence to hear my utterance.
The only term I have ever heard to describe this particular sort of χ is scrapy, but I don’t think I have ever seen the term in print. I heard the term many, many years ago from my former teacher and colleague John Baldwin. It’s perhaps not surprising that the IPA chart makes no mention of scrapiness. It’s a pretty fair bet that no language contrasts scrapy and non-scrapy fricatives. The ExtIPA chart also seems to be silent on the matter.
Here is my take on scrapiness for what it’s worth. Given the evidence of the speech pressure waveform below, which is taken from the first <ch> sound in my recording, scrapiness involves some sort of quasi-periodicity. My proprioceptive impression is that something is vibrating and it is not the uvula itself, as would be found in a voiceless uvular trill R̥. I think the scrapy fricative is a laxer articulation than its smoother counterpart and that it requires a stronger airflow.