…You mention the ‘velar fricative’ in Afrikaans. I must say that in over 25 years here in contact with Afrikaans I've rarely heard one except in a few hyper-posh varieties, or occasionally (but rarely) before front vowels in an uncommon version of the German ‘ich/ach rule’. The normal reflex of the early Germanic voiced back fricative, spelled <g>, is virtually always uvular, either a fricative or especially in initial position before a stressed vowel a voiceless uvular trill. This falls in with the voiceless back fricative < IE *k, so uvulars in goed, nag. Very similar if not identical to what is often called /x/ in Dutch but is also uvular in most varieties.
Afrikaans generally does not palatalise this before front vowels, but keeps it uvular, as in my experience do standard Dutch and Yiddish. All are languages that have a uvular not velar fricative (in Yiddish of course only from Germanic and Slavic voiceless back fricatives). It appears that uvulars may not be sensitive to palatal influence because of tongue shape. I've also noticed that many varieties of German, more than not in my experience, have a not very noisy uvular but definitely not velar fricative for <ch>, which does palatalise. As I recall, but am open to correction, there are varieties of Swiss German with a uvular trill for <ch>, and they don't palatalise.
In SA English speakers saying Sexwale (as well as Afrikaans loans with the same segment) have a uvular. The same is true of English speakers, in America, the UK and SA with Yiddish loans having this segment.
Thanks, Roger, for these observations.
I’d like to add two points: one about transcriptional practice, one about the facts.
The 1949 IPA Principles booklet, from which I quoted a few lines in last Wednesday’s blog about a (30 Nov), also has this (p. 12-13):
As with vowels, it is desirable to substitute more familiar consonant letters for less familiar ones, when such substitution can be made without causing ambiguity. … In accordance with [this] principle … the sound χ can generally be represented by the letter x. This cannot, however, be done in such languages as Eskimo or Kabardian, where the velar and uvular sounds occur as separate phonemes.The 1949 booklet contains transcribed specimens of both Dutch and Afrikaans, both using the symbol x without further qualification.
Fifty years later, in the 1999 IPA Handbook, Carlos Gussenhoven says this about Dutch:
Roughly south of a line Rotterdam-Nijmegen, which is marked by the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Waal, /x, ɣ/ are velar, while to the north the corresponding voiceless fricative is post-velar or uvular.
And let’s not forget that velar—uvular is a continuum rather than an either/or disjunction.