Lateral consonant

Manners of articulation
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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). Most laterals are approximants and belong to the class of liquids.

English has a lateral approximant phoneme , 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 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 with the tongue assuming a spoon-like shape with its back part raised, which gives the sound a - or -like resonance.

In many British accents (e.g. London English), dark 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 . Something similar has happened in Brazilian Portuguese.

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

Many aboriginal Australian have series of three or four lateral approximants. 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 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.)

List of laterals:

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):

Missing image
Image:Lateral fricatives.png

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

Missing image
Image:Lateral flaps.png

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

ko:설측음 ja:側面音 zh:边音


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