Palatal lateral approximant

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Palatal lateral approximant
IPA number 157
Entity (decimal) ʎ
Unicode (hex) U+028E
Kirshenbaum l^
Braille ⠦ (braille pattern dots-236) ⠽ (braille pattern dots-13456)
Alveolo-palatal lateral approximant

The palatal 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 ʎ, a rotated lowercase letter y (not to be confused with lowercase lambda, λ), and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is L.

Many languages that were previously thought to have a palatal lateral approximant actually have a lateral approximant that is, broadly, alveolo-palatal; that is to say, it is articulated at a place in-between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate (excluded), and it may be variously described as alveolo-palatal, lamino-postalveolar,[1] or postalveolo-prepalatal.[2] Of 13 languages investigated by Recasens (2013), many of them Romance, none possess a 'true' palatal.[3] This is likely the case for several other languages listed here. Some languages, like Portuguese and Catalan, have a lateral approximant that varies between alveolar and alveolo-palatal.[4]

There is no dedicated symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents the alveolo-palatal lateral approximant. If precision is desired, it may be transcribed l̠ʲ or ʎ̟; these are essentially equivalent, because the contact includes both the blade and body (but not the tip) of the tongue. There is also a non-IPA letter ȴ, used especially in Sinological circles.

According to some scholars,[5][6] the palatal lateral approximant contrasts phonemically with its voiceless counterpart /ʎ̥/ in some subdialects of Trøndersk, which is a dialect of Norwegian.[7]


Features of the palatal lateral approximant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Aragonese agulla [aˈɣuʎa] 'needle'
Asturian Northern dialects llana [ˈʎãna] 'wool' Where /ʎ/ is absent due to a yeísmo-like merger, it is replaced by different sounds (depending on dialect) and spelled ḷḷ
Aymara llaki [ʎaki] 'sad'
Basque bonbilla [bo̞mbiʎa] 'bulb'
Breton familh [famiʎ] 'family'
Bulgarian любов [l̠ʲubof] 'love' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed]
Catalan ull [ˈul̠ʲ] 'eye' Alveolo-palatal.[2] See Catalan phonology
English General American[8] million [ˈmɪʎən] 'million' Frequent allophone of /lj/,[8] sometimes realized as [jj].[8] See English phonology
Enindhilyagwa angalya [aŋal̠ʲa] 'place' Laminal post-alveolar
Faroese fylgja [fɪʎd͡ʒa] 'to follow'
Franco-Provençal balyi [baʎi] 'give'
Galician illado [iˈʎaðo] 'insulated' (m.) Many Galician speakers are nowadays yeístas because of influence from Spanish
Greek ήλιος About this sound [ˈiʎos]  'sun' Postalveolar.[9] See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian Northern dialects[10] lyuk [ʎuk] 'hole' Alveolo-palatal.[11] Modern standard Hungarian has undergone a phenomenon akin to Spanish yeísmo, merging /ʎ/ into /j/. See Hungarian ly and Hungarian phonology
Italian figlio [ˈfiʎːo] 'son' Alveolo-palatal.[2] See Italian phonology
Korean 실례 sillye [ɕil̠ʲl̠ʲe] 'discourtesy' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Korean phonology
Leonese llibru [ˈʎiβɾu] 'book'
Norwegian Northern and central dialects[12] alle [ɑʎːe] 'all' See Norwegian phonology
Occitan Northern miralhar [miɾaˈʎa] 'to reflect' See Occitan phonology
Gascon hilh [hiʎ] 'son'
Portuguese Many dialects[13] sandália [sɐ̃ˈdal̠ʲɐ] 'sandal' There is no contrast of [lj ~ lʲ ~ l̠ʲ ~ ʎ] for either /li̯/ or /ʎ/ in Brazilian Portuguese.[14][15] Historically diminished in caipira and hinterland nordestino areas due to more advanced yeísmo-like phenomenon, also affecting in various degrees all of Brazil.[16]
Most speakers ralho [ˈʁal̠ʲu] 'I scold' Alveolo-palatal in European Portuguese.[17] Contrasts with both /l/ and [j], sounds to which phantom Brazilian /ʎ/ tends to evolve to (especially when not before rounded vowels).[15][18] See Portuguese phonology
Quechua[19] qallu [qaʎu] 'tongue'
Romanian Transylvanian dialects[20] lingură [ʎungurə][stress?] 'spoon' Corresponds to [l][in which environments?] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[21] till [tʲʰiːʎ] 'return' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian љуљaшка / ljuljaška [ʎǔʎaːʃka] 'swing (seat)' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Sissano piyl [piʎ] 'fish'
Slovak ľúbiť About this sound [ˈʎuːbɪc]  'to love' Replaced with l in southern dialects
Spanish Castilian[22] millón [miˈʎõ̞n] 'million' For most speakers, this sound has merged with /ʝ/, a phenomenon called yeísmo. See Spanish phonology
Ukrainian ліс [l̠ʲis] 'forest' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Ukrainian phonology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Recasens (2013:2), citing Ladefoged (1997:602)
  2. ^ a b c Recasens et al. (1993:222)
  3. ^ Recasens (2013:11)
  4. ^ Recasens (2013:10–13)
  5. ^ Such as Vanvik (1979)
  6. ^ An example of a scholar disagreeing with this position is Scholtz (2009). On page 15, she provides a phoneme chart for Trøndersk, in which /ʎ/ is included. Under the phoneme chart she writes "Vanvik also lists /ʎ̥/ as an underlying phoneme, but that’s ridiculous :)." She provides no further explanation as to why it is ridiculous.
  7. ^ Vanvik (1979:37)
  8. ^ a b c Wells (1982:490)
  9. ^ Arvaniti (2007:20)
  10. ^ Benkő (1972:?)
  11. ^ Recasens (2013:10)
  12. ^ Skjekkeland (1997:105–107)
  13. ^ Considerações sobre o status das palato-alveolares em português
  14. ^ Aspectos fonéticos, fonológicos e sociolinguísticos das palatais lateral e nasal
  15. ^ a b Stein (2011:223)
  16. ^ Aragão (2009:170)
  17. ^ Teixeira et al. (2012:321)
  18. ^ Aragão (2009:168)
  19. ^ Ladefoged (2005:149)
  20. ^ Pop (1938), p. 30.
  21. ^ Oftedal (1956:?)
  22. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)