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Lateral consonant

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Language: Linguistics · Semiotics · Speech

Manners of articulation
Plosive (occlusive)
See also: Place of articulation
This page contains phonetic information in IPA, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]

Laterals are "L"-like consonants pronounced with an occlusion made somewhere along the axis of the tongue, while air from the lungs escapes at one side or both sides of the tongue.

Most commonly the tip of the tongue makes contact with the upper teeth (see dental consonant) or the upper gum (the alveolar ridge) just behind the teeth (see alveolar consonant). The most common laterals are approximants and belong to the class of liquids.

Laterals in various languages Edit

English has a lateral approximant phoneme /l/, which in many accents has two allophones. One, found before vowels as in lady or fly, is called clear l, pronounced as the alveolar lateral approximant [l] with a "neutral" position of the body of the tongue. The other variant, so-called dark l found before consonants or word-finally, as in bold or tell, is pronounced as the velarized alveolar lateral approximant [ɫ] with the tongue assuming a spoon-like shape with its back part raised, which gives the sound a [w]- or [ɰ]-like resonance.

In many British accents (e.g. London English), dark [ɫ] may undergo vocalization through the reduction and loss of contact between the tip of the tongue the alveolar ridge, becoming a rounded back vowel or glide. This process turns tell into something like [tɛɰ]. Something similar has happened in Brazilian Portuguese, resulting in /w/; a similar process affected Old French, producing Modern French sauce as compared with Spanish salsa. This process is known as l-vocalization.

The Italian gli and Castilian Spanish ll are the palatal lateral approximant [ʎ], which is present as well in Catalan ll, French ill- (in some dialects), Portuguese lh, Quechua ll.

Many aboriginal Australian languages have a series of three or four lateral approximants, as do various dialects of Irish. Rarer lateral consonants include the retroflex laterals that can be found in most Indic languages; and the sound of Welsh ll, the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ] that is also found in Zulu and many Native American languages. (Note that the voiceless laterals in Tibetan are voiceless approximants, not fricatives.) Many of these languages also have lateral affricates. Some languages have palatal or velar voiceless lateral fricatives or affricates, such as Dahalo and Zulu, or retroflex lateral flaps, but the IPA has no symbols for these sounds. However, appropriate symbols are easy to make by adding a lateral-fricative belt or retroflex hook to the symbol for the corresponding lateral approximant (see below). Failing that, raising and devoicing diacritics are added to the approximant.

A large number of lateral click consonants, 17, occur in !Xóõ.

List of laterals Edit

Other symbols Edit

The symbol for the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative forms the basis for the occasional ad hoc symbols for other voiceless lateral fricatives: retroflex, palatal, velar (the latter two only known from affricates):

Lateral fricatives

The symbol for the alveolar lateral flap is the basis for the expected symbol for the retroflex lateral flap:

Lateral flaps

Such symbols are rare, but are becoming more common now that font-editing software has become accessible. Note however that since they are not sanctioned by the IPA, there are no Unicode values for them.

See also Edit

  Consonants (List, table) See also: IPA, Vowels  
Pulmonics Bilabial Lab'den. Dental Alveolar Postalv. Retroflex Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn. Epiglottal Glottal Non-pulmonics and other symbols
Nasals m ɱ n ɳ ɲ ŋ ɴ Clicks  ʘ ǀ ǃ ǂ ǁ
Plosives p b t d ʈ ɖ c ɟ k ɡ q ɢ ʡ ʔ Implo­­sives  ɓ ɗ ʄ ɠ ʛ
Fricatives  ɸ β f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ ç ʝ x ɣ χ ʁ ħ ʕ ʜ ʢ h ɦ Ejec­­tives 
Approximants  β̞ ʋ ð̞ ɹ ɻ j ɰ Other laterals  ɺ ɫ
Trills ʙ r ʀ Co-articulated approximants  ʍ w ɥ
Flaps & Taps ѵ ɾ ɽ Co-articulated fricatives  ɕ ʑ ɧ
Lat. Fricatives ɬ ɮ Affricates  ʦ ʣ ʧ ʤ
Lat. Appr'mants l ɭ ʎ ʟ Co-articulated stops  k͡p ɡ͡b ŋ͡m
This page contains phonetic information in IPA, which may not display correctly in some browsers. [Help]
Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant. Shaded areas denote pulmonic articulations judged impossible.
de:Lateral (Phonetik)

fr:Consonne latérale ko:설측음 he:עיצורים צדייםro:Consoană laterală sv:Lateral zh:边音

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