It has probably been a year since I first noticed a paralinguistic oddity in Castilian Spanish. I have looked far and wide for literature documenting this peculiar ‘click’, but, alas, it did not prove effective. In the hope a lost and wandering linguist find this article and shed some light on this topic, I will lay bare the secret fruits of my personal findings.
First of all, my introduction might have been slightly misleading, the ‘click’ in itself is not unfathomably weird (I don’t actually know how to refer to this, so for lack of a better word, I will stick to ‘click’, that is, until a linguist in shining armor slays the hydra of ignorance). Its use and frequency, on the other hand, are (maybe) unique.
The sound in question is a… I don’t know. It sounds like a cross between a dental click and a voiceless bilabial click. It’s mostly used when someone is looking for a word they can’t find. It’s akin to both ‘you know’ and ‘errrm’. It’s basically a filler sound, but I had never heard of a click serving this purpose (especially in a non-click language), so it’s better if I leave you with a couple of examples from YouTube:
–RiME | En Español | Capitulo 1 “Una solitaria isla” from 20:02 to around 20:31, he does it a couple of times.
–BUENOS YOUTUBERS con Hank Green – Youtube Restart LuzuVlogs #4 once at around 4:45
–LATE MOTIV – Berto Romero. El único humano que sobrevivirá al apocalipsis final | #LateMotiv226 twice between 6:50 and 6:58
– The stars of Las Chicas Del Cable discuss Spain’s “seductive” first Netflix Original Nadia de Santiago does it once at 2:15, and then I can’t pinpoint who is doing it but you can hear twice at 2:48. Maggie Civantos also does it at 3:36.