just 'eject' them even more than usual, I think.
Um. Sort of.
Here's the intro to the glottal stop and ejectives I posted over on Facebook:
I can't help but wonder how many people are led to a more serious study of language by things like Na'vi, Klingon before it and even Tolkien's elvish languages before that. Who else but a devoted fan of Star Trek is going to learn how to pronounce Klingon's lateral affricate consonant? And who else but a fan of the Na'vi is going to learn ejectives? Ejectives are quite common in native languages of the Americas. Perhaps some current Na'vi fan will move on to an endangered language like Navajo or one of the Mayan languages.
I've never had difficulty with ejective consonants. Unlike lateral affricates, which involves sounds that don't occur in my native English, ejectives I've always considered a very strange arrangement of sounds that English already has (though not all my language-oriented friends agree, and find them difficult). Let's start with the glottal stop.
We don't write a glottal stop in English, but it's there. Any time you say a word starting with a vowel after a pause, we put in a little prop glottal stop. The only real time it occurs anywhere else is in the word "Uh-oh". It's that catch in your throat between the "Uh" and the "Oh." Plenty of languages do use the glottal stop in the middle and ends of words, and when they're written with the Latin alphabet, an apostrophe is usually used. So, if English were spelled like Navajo, it'd be: 'uh'oh.
Like Navajo, Na'vi can put a glottal stop in the middle of words. In fact, the word Na'vi itself has an internal glottal stop. None of the English spoken in the film pronounces the word correctly, even when one of the Na'vi-speaking scientists says it, but when Eytukan says the word, you can really hear the glottal stop at the end of the first syllable: na'-vi. From the word list: ke'u "nothing".
*Most* of the time, ejective consonants are written also with the glottal stop apostrophe, as in Navajo at'ééd "girl". But for some reason Frommer chose to use an 'x' for this, perhaps as a reminder to the actors — often in sci-fi and fantasy languages, apostrophes are used as decoration, and don't mean anything.
In any case, ejective consonants are made by closing the glottis as for a glottal stop, then pushing out one of the consonants /p, t, k/ just using the air in your mouth, then releasing the glottis for the following vowel sound. Notice that this isn't just a consonant followed immediately by a glottal stop, rather, the consonant is articulated *at the same time* as the glottal stop. This is what gives it a popping sort of sound some people confuse with the clicks of a language like !Kung.
Here are some sound samples:
kx - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Velar_ejective_plosive.ogg
tx - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Alveolar_ejective_plosive.ogg
px - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/64/Bilabial_ejective_plosive.ogg
I hope this helps a few people along.