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.
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.
Its phonation is voiceless, which means it is produced without vibrations of the vocal cords. In some languages the vocal cords are actively separated, so it is always voiceless; in others the cords are lax, so that it may take on the voicing of adjacent sounds.
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 voiced velarized alveolar lateral approximant (dark l) is a type of consonantal sound used in some spokenlanguages. It is an alveolar, denti-alveolar or dental lateral approximant, with a secondary articulation of velarization or pharyngealization. The regular symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represent this sound are 〈lˠ〉 (for a velarized lateral) and 〈lˤ〉 (for a pharyngealized lateral), though the dedicated letter 〈ɫ〉, which covers both velarization and pharyngealization is perhaps more common. If the sound is dental or denti-alveolar, one could use a dental diacritic to indicate that: 〈l̪ˠ〉, 〈l̪ˤ〉, 〈ɫ̪〉.
Velarization and pharyngealization are generally associated with more dental articulations of coronal consonants so that dark l tends to be dental or denti-alveolar while clear l tends to be retracted to an alveolar position.
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