Voiceless alveolar lateral approximant

The alveolar lateral approximant, also known as clear l, is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral approximants is ⟨l⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is l.

As a sonorant, lateral approximants are nearly always voiced. Voiceless lateral approximants, /l̥/, are common in Tibeto-Burman languages, but uncommon elsewhere. In such cases, voicing typically starts about halfway through the hold of the consonant. No language contrasts such a sound with a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ].

In a number of languages, including most varieties of English, the phoneme /l/ becomes velarized in certain contexts, a sound often called "dark l". Some languages, like many North American dialects of English may not have a "clear" /l/ at all.


Features of the alveolar lateral approximant:


Languages may have clear apical or laminal alveolars (such as Bulgarian, which has both), laminal denti-alveolars (such as French), or true dentals, which are uncommon. However, a true dental generally occurs allophonically before /θ/ in languages which have it, as in English health.

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz мгьал [mɡʲal] 'bread' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe кӀалэ [t͡ʃaːla] 'boy'
Albanian lis [lis] 'tree'
Arabic Standard[1] لا [laː] 'no' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[2] լուսին ) 'moon'
Basque lan [lan] 'work'
Bulgarian или [ili] 'or'
Catalan tela [ˈtɛlə] 'fabric' Front alveolar. May also be velarized. See Catalan phonology
Chinese Mandarin lǎo [lɑʊ˨˩˦] 'old' See Mandarin phonology
Czech lis [lɪs] 'press' See Czech phonology
Dutch leven [ˈleːvə(n)] 'to live' See Dutch phonology
English let [lɛt] 'let' See English phonology
Finnish illalla [ilːɑlːɑ] 'at evening' See Finnish phonology
German Liebe [ˈliːbə] 'love' See German phonology
Greek άλμα álma [ˈalma] 'jump' See Modern Greek phonology
Hebrew לא [lo̞] 'no' See Modern Hebrew phonology
Hungarian elem [ɛlɛm] 'battery' See Hungarian phonology
Italian[3] letto [ˈlɛt̪t̪o] 'bed' See Italian phonology
Kabardian щIалэ [ɕʼaːla] 'boy'
Kyrgyz[4] көпөлөк [køpøˈløk] 'butterfly' Velarized in back vowel contexts.
Malay lagi [laɡi] 'again'
Marathi ग्न [ləɡˈnə] 'wedding' See Marathi phonology
Norwegian liv [liːv] 'life' Can be dental in eastern dialects. See Norwegian phonology
Polish[5] pole ) 'field' See Polish phonology
Romanian[6] alună [äˈlun̪ə] 'hazelnut' Apical. See Romanian phonology
Russian ключ ) 'key' Contrasts palatalized and velarized variants. See Russian phonology
Slovak[7] mĺkvy ) 'silent' Syllabic form can be long or short
Spanish[8] hablar [äˈβ̞läɾ] 'to speak' See Spanish phonology
Tibetan ལྷ་ས་ [l̥ásə] 'Lhasa' Contrasts voiced and voiceless lateral approximants
West Frisian lyts [lit͡s] 'small' In complementary distribution with ]; occurs before [i] and [y]
Dental or denti-alveolar
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Dutch Belgian lucht [l̪ʏçt̪] 'air' Some dialects.
English Some dialects wealth [ˈwɛl̪θ] 'wealth' Present in dialects with no dark l and no l-vocalization.
French[9] il [il̪] 'he' See French phonology
Macedonian[10] лево [l̪e̞vo̞] 'left' See Macedonian phonology
Mapudungun [l̪afken̪] 'sea, lake' Interdental
Norwegian Eastern liv [l̪iːv] 'life' Some dialects, in others it's alveolar. See Norwegian phonology
Pashto لس [ləs] 'ten'
Polish wolt [vɔl̪t̪] 'volt' Denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ before dental and denti-alveolar consonants. See Polish phonology
Swedish Central Standard[11] allt [äl̪t̪] 'everything' See Swedish phonology
Tamil[12] புலி [puli] 'tiger' See Tamil phonology
Ukrainian[13] обличчя [ɔˈblɪt͡ʃʲːɑ] 'face' See Ukrainian phonology
Vietnamese[14] lửa [lɨə˧˩˧] 'fire' See Vietnamese phonology
Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Chinese Cantonese lou5 [lou˩˧˦] 'old' Alveolar to sometimes dental. See Cantonese phonology
Korean 물집 muljip [mult͡ɕ̤ip̚] 'blister' Alveolar to post-alveolar. See Korean phonology
Portuguese Most Brazilian dialects[15][16] lero-lero [ˈlɛɾu ˈlɛɾu] 'runaround'[17] Dental to sometimes alveolar. Always velarized in other dialects.[18] See Portuguese phonology

See also



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