Alveolar lateral approximant

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For consonants followed by superscript ˡ, see Lateral release.
Alveolar lateral approximant
IPA number 155
Entity (decimal) l
Unicode (hex) U+006C
Kirshenbaum l
Braille ⠇ (braille pattern dots-123)
Postalveolar lateral approximant
Dental lateral approximant

The alveolar lateral approximant 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 Sino-Tibetan 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 voiced 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.

Dental or denti-alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Dutch Flemish lucht [l̪ʏçt̪] 'air' Laminal denti-alveolar, present in some dialects. See Dutch phonology
English Some dialects wealth [ˈwɛl̪θ] 'wealth' Dental. Allophone of /l/ before /θ ð/, present in dialects with no dark l and no L-vocalization. See English phonology
French[1] il [il̪] 'he' Laminal denti-alveolar. See French phonology
Hungarian[2] elem [ˈɛl̪ɛm] 'battery' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Hungarian phonology
Italian[3][4][5] molto [ˈmol̪ːt̪o] 'much, a lot' Laminal denti-alveolar.[3][4] Allophone of /l/ before /t d s z t͡s d͡z/.[3][4][5] See Italian phonology
Macedonian[6] лево [l̪e̞vo̞] 'left' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Macedonian phonology
Mapudungun [l̪afken̪] 'sea, lake' Interdental
Norwegian Eastern liv [l̪iːv] 'life' Laminal denti-alveolar. Present in some dialects, alveolar in others. See Norwegian phonology
Pashto لس [ləs] 'ten'
Polish wolt [vɔl̪t̪] 'volt' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ before dental and denti-alveolar consonants. See Polish phonology
Slovene bazalt [baˈz̪áːl̪t̪] 'basalt' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ before /t d s z t͡s/ when not vocalized to [w]
Swedish Central Standard[7] allt [äl̪t̪] 'everything' Laminal denti-alveolar. See Swedish phonology
Tamil[8] புலி [pul̪i] 'tiger' See Tamil phonology
Uzbek[9] [example needed] Laminal denti-alveolar. Velarized between a non-front rounded vowel and a consonant or juncture phoneme.[9]
Vietnamese[10] lửa [lɨə˧˩˧] 'fire' See Vietnamese phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz мгьал [mɡʲal] 'bread' See Abkhaz phonology
Adyghe кӀалэ [t͡ʃaːla] 'boy'
Albanian lis [lis] 'tree'
Arabic Standard[11] لا [laː] 'no' See Arabic phonology
Armenian Eastern[12] լուսին About this sound [lusin]  'moon'
Basque lan [lan] 'work'
Bulgarian или [ili] 'or'
Catalan[13][14] tela [ˈt̪ɛlə] 'fabric' Apical 'front alveolar'.[13][14] May also be velarized.[15] 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
Italian[16][17][3] letto [ˈlɛt̪ːo] 'bed' Apical.[4] See Italian phonology
Kabardian щIалэ [ɕʼaːla] 'boy' Traditionally pronounced as [ɮ]
Kashubian[18] [example needed]
Kyrgyz[19] 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[20] pole About this sound [ˈpɔlɛ]  'field' Contrasts with /ɫ/ for a small number of speakers; when it does, it is always palatalized [lʲ]. See Polish phonology
Punjabi ਲਾਲ [läːl] 'red'
Romanian[21] alună [äˈlun̪ə] 'hazelnut' Apical. See Romanian phonology
Russian ключ About this sound [klʲʉt͡ɕ]  'key' Palatalized. Contrasts with pharyngealized denti-alveolar lateral. See Russian phonology
Slovak[22] mĺkvy About this sound [ˈml̩ːkʋi]  'silent' Syllabic form can be long or short
Slovene[23] letalo [lɛˈt̪àːlɔ] 'airplane'
Spanish[24] hablar [äˈβ̞läɾ] 'to speak' See Spanish phonology
Tibetan [la] 'mountain pass' Contrasts voiced and voiceless lateral approximants
Ukrainian[25] обличчя [oˈblɪt͡ʃːɐ] 'face' Contrasts with palatalized form; it is voiceless word-finally after voiceless consonants.[25] See Ukrainian phonology
West Frisian lyts [lit͡s] 'small' In complementary distribution with [ɫ]; occurs before [i] and [y]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Italian[4] il cervo [il̠ʲ ˈt͡ʃɛrvo] 'the deer' Palatalized,[4] laminal.[4] Allophone of /l/ before /ʃ t͡ʃ d͡ʒ/.[4] See Italian phonology
Turkish[26][27] lale About this sound [l̠ʲäːˈl̠ʲɛ]  'tulip' Palatalized.[26][27] Contrasts with a velarized dental lateral [ɫ̪].[26][27] See Turkish 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 postalveolar. See Korean phonology
Portuguese Most Brazilian dialects[28][29] lero-lero [ˈlɛɾu ˈlɛɾu] 'runaround'[30] Dental to sometimes alveolar. Always co-articulated in other dialects.[31] See Portuguese phonology

Velarized alveolar lateral approximant [edit]

Dark L
IPA number 209
Entity (decimal) l​ˠ
Unicode (hex) U+006C U+02E0
X-SAMPA 5 or l_G or l_?\
Kirshenbaum l<vzd>

The velarized alveolar lateral approximant (dark l) is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. 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 (for a velarized lateral) and (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 dark l tends to be dental or denti-alveolar, while clear l tends to be retracted to an alveolar position.[32]


Features of the dark l:


Dental or denti-alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Belarusian[33] Беларусь [bʲɛɫ̪äˈrus̪ʲ] 'Belarus' Laminal denti-alveolar. Contrasts with palatalized form. See Belarusian phonology
Catalan[15][34] altres [ˈaɫ̪t̪ɾəs̺] 'others' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ before /t d/.[34] See Catalan phonology
English wealth [ˈwɛɫ̪θ] 'wealth' Dental. Allophone of /l/ before /θ ð/. See English phonology
Icelandic[35] sigldi [s̺ɪɫ̪t̪ɪ] 'sailed' Laminal denti-alveolar; rare. See Icelandic phonology
Lithuanian[36] labas [ˈɫ̪äːbɐs̪] 'hi' Laminal denti-alveolar. Contrasts with [lʲ]
Macedonian[37] лук
[ɫ̪uk] 'garlic' Laminal denti-alveolar. Present only before back vowels (/a o u/) and syllable-finally. See Macedonian phonology
Norwegian Southeastern[36] tale [ˈt̪ʰɑ̈ːɫ̪ə] 'speech, to speak' Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ after /ɑ ɑː ɔ oː/. See Norwegian phonology
Polish Eastern dialects[20] łapa [ˈɫ̪äpä] 'paw' Laminal denti-alveolar. Corresponds to /w/ in standard Polish. See Polish phonology
Russian[38] малый [ˈmɑ̟ɫ̪ɨ̞j] 'small' Pharyngealized laminal denti-alveolar. See Russian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[39] Mallaig [ˈmäʊɫ̪ækʲ] 'Mallaig' See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian столца / stolca [s̪t̪ǒ̞ːɫ̪t̪͡s̪a̠] 'chair' (gen. sg.) Laminal denti-alveolar. Allophone of /l/ before /t d s z t͡s/; may be syllabic. See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Turkish[26][27] lala [ɫ̪äˈɫ̪ä] 'servant' Laminal denti-alveolar.[27] Contrasts with a palatalized postalveolar lateral [].[26][27] See Turkish phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Albanian halla [ˈhäɫä] 'aunt'
Arabic Standard[40] الله ʼAllah [ʔɑˈɫːɑːh] 'God' Also transcribed as . Many accents and dialects lack the sound and instead pronounce [l]. See Arabic phonology
Bashkir ҡала ǩala [ˈqɑˈɫɑ] 'city'
Bulgarian ъгъл ăgăl [ˈɤ̞̈ɡɐɫ] 'corner'
Catalan[15] Eastern dialects cel·la [ˈsɛɫːə] 'cell' Apical. Can be always dark in many dialects. See Catalan phonology
Western dialects alt [aɫ(t)] 'tall'
Dutch[41][42][43] bal [bɑɫ] 'ball' Postvocalic allophone of /l/. Pharyngealised. Can be always dark in some Netherlandic dialects. See Dutch phonology
Emiliano-Romagnolo l [sa:ɫ] 'salt'
English[44] Australian feel About this sound  [fiːɫ]  'feel' Most often apical. Can be always dark in North America, Australia and New Zealand. See English phonology
General American
New Zealand
Received Pronunciation
South African
Scottish loch [ɫɔx] 'loch' Can be always dark, except in some borrowings from Scottish Gaelic
Greek Northern dialects[45] μπάλα lla [ˈbaɫa] 'ball' Allophone of /l/ before /a o u/. See Modern Greek phonology
Irish lá [ɫɑː] 'day' See Irish phonology
Kyrgyz [example needed] Appears in back vowel contexts, otherwise clear [l]
Norwegian Northern spelle [spæɫːe] 'to play' See Norwegian phonology
Ossetian Алани Alani About this sound [äˈɫäːni]  'Alania'
Romanian Bessarabian dialect[46] cal [kaɫ] 'horse' Corresponds to non-velarized l[in which environments?] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scots fluir [fɫyːr] 'floor'
Serbo-Croatian[47] лак / lak [ɫâ̠k] 'easy' Apical; may be syllabic; contrasts with /ʎ/. See Serbo-Croatian phonology
St’át’imcets qao [qáɫ] 'bad'
Taos [kīǣˈwǣɫmã̄] 'be strong' See Taos phonology
Uzbek[9] [example needed] Apical; between a non-front rounded vowel and a consonant or juncture phoneme. Non-velarized denti-alveolar elsewhere.[9]
Welsh Northern dialects lol [ɫɔɫ] 'nonsense'
West Frisian lân [ɫɔːn] 'land'

Variable [edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Portuguese European[48] mil [miɫ̪] 'thousand' When [lˠ ~ lʶ ~ lˤ ~ lˀ],[49] most often dental. Coda is now vocalized to [ ~ ʊ̯] in most of Brazil (as in rural parts of Alto Minho and Madeira).[50] Might be always dental, and always dark (especially before back/rounded and close/unrounded vowels) in most dialects. See Portuguese phonology
Most dialects[51] Lituânia About this sound [ɫ̪it̪uˈɐ̃ɲ̟ɐ]  'Lithuania'
Older Brazilian[52][53][54][55] álcool [ˈäɫ̪ko̞ɫ̪] 'alcohol, ethanol'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walker (1984:35)
  2. ^ Siptár & Törkenczy (2000:75–76)
  3. ^ a b c d Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:117)
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Canepari (1992:89)
  5. ^ a b Bertinetto & Loporcaro (2005:133)
  6. ^ Lunt (1952:1)
  7. ^ Engstrand (2004:167)
  8. ^ Keane (2004:111)
  9. ^ a b c d Sjoberg (1963:13)
  10. ^ Thompson (1959:458–461)
  11. ^ Thelwall (1990:38)
  12. ^ Dum-Tragut (2009:20)
  13. ^ a b Wheeler (2005:10–11)
  14. ^ a b "Voiced Alveolar Lateral - Central | Els Sons del Català". 
    "Voiced Alveolar Lateral - Nord Occidental | Els Sons del Català". 
  15. ^ a b c Recasens & Espinosa (2005:1 and 20)
  16. ^ Bertinetto & Loporcaro (2005:132)
  17. ^ Canepari (1992:88–89)
  18. ^
  19. ^ Kara (2003:11)
  20. ^ a b Rocławski (1976:130)
  21. ^ Chițoran (2001:10)
  22. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:374)
  23. ^ Pretnar & Tokarz (1980:21)
  24. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  25. ^ a b Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995:10)
  26. ^ a b c d e Zimmer & Orgun (1999:154–155)
  27. ^ a b c d e f Göksel & Kerslake (2005:8)
  28. ^ Depalatalization and consequential iotization in the speech of Fortaleza. Page 2. (Portuguese)
  29. ^ Barbosa & Albano (2004:229)
  30. ^ Runaround generator
  31. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:92)
  32. ^ a b Recasens & Espinosa (2005:4)
  33. ^ Padluzhny (1989:50–51)
  34. ^ a b Rafel (1999:14)
  35. ^ Scholten (2000:22)
  36. ^ a b Mathiassen (1996:23)
  37. ^ Lunt (1952:11–12)
  38. ^ Jones & Ward (1969:168)
  39. ^ Ó Dochartaigh (1997)
  40. ^ Watson (2002:16)
  41. ^ Verhoeven (2005:245)
  42. ^ Booij, Geert. 1999. The Phonology of Dutch. P.8
  43. ^!e-book/book/djvu/A/iif_kgpm_Collins_Phonetics_of_English_and_Dutch_pdf.pdf
  44. ^ Roca & Johnson (1999:73)
  45. ^ Northern Greek Dialects Portal for the Greek Language
  46. ^ Pop (1938), p. 30.
  47. ^ Gick et al. (2006:?)
  48. ^ Cruz-Ferreira (1995:93)
  49. ^ "Um caso de português tonal no Brasil?" – Centro de Comunicação e Expressão – Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Portuguese). Page 52.
  50. ^ MELO, Gladstone Chaves de. "A língua do Brasil". 4. Ed. Melhorada e aum., Rio de Janeiro: Padrão, 1981
  51. ^ (Italian) Accenti romanze: Portogallo e Brasile (portoghese) – The influence of foreign accents on Italian language acquisition
  52. ^ (Portuguese) The process of Norm change for the good pronunciation of the Portuguese language in chant and dramatics in Brazil during 1938, 1858 and 2007 Page 36.
  53. ^ TEYSSIER, Paul. "História da Língua Portuguesa", Lisboa: Livraria Sá da Costa, pp. 81-83.
  54. ^ Bisol (2005:211)
  55. ^ "Um caso de português tonal no Brasil?" – Centro de Comunicação e Expressão – Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (Portuguese). Page 49.


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