Retroflex lateral approximant

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Retroflex lateral approximant
IPA number 156
Entity (decimal) ɭ
Unicode (hex) U+026D
Kirshenbaum l.
Braille ⠲ (braille pattern dots-256) ⠇ (braille pattern dots-123)

The retroflex lateral approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɭ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is l`.


Features of the retroflex lateral approximant:

  • Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by narrowing the vocal tract at the place of articulation, but not enough to produce a turbulent airstream.
  • Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated subapical (with the tip of the tongue curled up), but more generally, it means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical sub-apical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation. However, in some languages, such as Swiss German, it can just mean that this consonant is pronounced shorter and weaker than its voiceless counterpart, while its voicedness or lack thereof is not relevant. In such cases it's more accurate to call such sounds lenis or lax.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a lateral consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream over the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


In the following transcriptions, diacritics may be used to distinguish between apical [ɭ̺] and laminal [ɭ̻].

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Enindhilyagwa marluwiya [maɭuwija] 'emu'
Kannada ಎಳ್ಳು [ˈeɭɭu] 'sesame' Represented by a
Khanty Eastern and some northern dialects пуӆ [puɭ] 'bit'
Malayalam മലയാളി About this sound [mɐl̪əjɐ̞ːɭ̺̠ɪ]  'Malayalam people' Represented by a . Apical and retracted (apico-palatal). Never word-initial and long and short forms are contrastive word-medially[1]
Marathi कुळ [kuɭa] 'clan' Represented by a . See Marathi phonology
Norwegian farlig [fɑːɭi] 'dangerous' Eastern and central dialects. See Norwegian phonology
Punjabi ਤ੍ਰੇਲ਼ [t̪ɾeɭ] 'dew' Represented by a ਲ਼. Mostly found in rural dialects
Swedish sorl About this sound [soːɭ]  'murmur' (noun) See Swedish phonology
Tamil[2] புளி [puɭi] 'tamarind' Represented by a ள். See Tamil phonology
Telugu నీళ్ళు [niːɭːu] 'water' Represented by a

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jiang (2010:16–17)
  2. ^ Keane (2004:111)


  • Jiang, Haowen (April 2010), Malayalam: a Grammatical Sketch and a Text, Department of Linguistics, Rice University 
  • Keane, Elinor (2004), Tamil, Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 111–116, doi:10.1017/S0025100304001549