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 have 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.

The palatal lateral approximant contrasts phonemically with its voiceless counterpart /ʎ̥/ in the Xumi language spoken in China.[5][6]


Features of the palatal lateral approximant:


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Aragonese agulla [a̠ˈɣuʎa̠] 'needle'
Astur-Leonese Asturian llingua [ˈʎĩŋgwa̝] 'language' Where /ʎ/ is absent due to a yeísmo-like merger, it is replaced by different sounds (depending on dialect) and spelled ḷḷ. Yeísmo is prevalent in Extremaduran language (spoken in northwestern Extremadura) and west central Asturian.
Mirandese lhéngua [ˈʎɛ̃gwɐ]
Aymara llaki [ʎaki] 'sad'
Basque bonbilla [bo̞mbiʎa̠] 'bulb'
Breton familh [fa̠miʎ] 'family'
Bulgarian любов [l̠ʲubof] 'love' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed]
Catalan Standard ull [ˈul̠ʲ] 'eye' Alveolo-palatal.[2] See Catalan phonology
Eastern Aragon clau [ˈkl̠ʲa̠w] 'key' Allophone of /l/ in consonant clusters
English County Donegal[7] million [ˈmɪʎən] 'million' Allophone of the sequence /lj/.[7]
General American[8] A frequent allophone of the sequence /lj/; sometimes realized as [jj].[8] See English phonology
Enindhilyagwa angalya [aŋal̠ʲa] 'place' Laminal post-alveolar
Faroese[9] telgja [ˈtʰɛʎt͡ʃa] 'to carve' Allophone of /l/ before palatal consonants.[9] Sometimes voiceless [ʎ̥].[9] See Faroese phonology
Franco-Provençal balyi [baʎi] 'give'
French Some dialects[10] papillon [papiʎɒ̃] 'butterfly' Corresponds to /j/ in modern standard French. See French phonology
Galician Standard illado [iˈʎa̠ðo̝] 'insulated' Many Galician speakers are nowadays yeístas because of influence from Spanish
Greek ήλιος About this sound [ˈiʎos]  'sun' Postalveolar.[11] See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian Northern dialects[12] lyuk [ʎuk] 'hole' Alveolo-palatal.[13] Modern standard Hungarian has undergone a phenomenon akin to Spanish yeísmo, merging /ʎ/ into /j/. See Hungarian ly and Hungarian phonology
Italian[2] figlio [ˈfiʎːo] 'son' Alveolo-palatal.[2] Realized as fricative [ʎ̝] in a large number of accents.[14] See Italian phonology
Korean 실례/sillye [ɕil̠ʲl̠ʲe] 'discourtesy' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Korean phonology
Norwegian Northern and central dialects[15] alle [ɑʎːe] 'all' See Norwegian phonology
Occitan Standard miralhar [miɾa̠ˈʎa̠] 'to reflect' See Occitan phonology
Portuguese Standard ralho [ˈʁaʎu] 'I scold' Alveolo-palatal in European Portuguese.[16] May instead be [lʲ], [l] (Northeast) or [j] (Caipira), especially before unrounded vowels.[17][18] See Portuguese phonology
Many dialects[19] sandália [sɐ̃ˈda̠l̠ʲɐ] 'sandal' Possible realization of post-stressed /li/ plus vowel.
Quechua[20] qallu [qaʎʊ] 'tongue'
Romanian Transylvanian dialects[21] lingură [ʎungurə][stress?] 'spoon' Corresponds to [l][in which environments?] in standard Romanian. See Romanian phonology
Scottish Gaelic[22] till [tʲʰiːʎ] 'return' Alveolo-palatal.[citation needed] See Scottish Gaelic phonology
Serbo-Croatian[23] љуљaшка / ljuljaška [ʎ̟ǔʎ̟a̠ːʃka̠] 'swing (seat)' Palato-alveolar.[23] See Serbo-Croatian phonology
Sissano piyl [piʎ] 'fish'
Slovak ľúbiť About this sound [ˈʎuːbɪc]  'to love' Merges with /l/ in southern dialects. See Slovak phonology
Spanish[24] Andean caballo [ka̠ˈβa̠ʎö] 'horse' Found in traditional speakers in Peninsular Spanish. Also found in Andean countries and Paraguay. For most speakers, this sound has merged with /ʝ/, a phenomenon called yeísmo. See Spanish phonology
Central areas in Extremadura
Eastern and southwestern Manchego
Very few areas in Andalusia
Xumi Lower[5] [Rʎ̟o] 'musk deer' Alveolo-palatal; contrasts with the voiceless /ʎ̥/.[5][6]
Upper[6] [Hʎ̟ɛ] 'correct, right'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Recasens (2013:2), citing Ladefoged (1997:602)
  2. ^ a b c d Recasens et al. (1993:222)
  3. ^ Recasens (2013:11)
  4. ^ Recasens (2013:10–13)
  5. ^ a b c Chirkova & Chen (2013:365, 367–368)
  6. ^ a b c Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013:382–383)
  7. ^ a b Stenson (1991), cited in Hickey (2004:71)
  8. ^ a b Wells (1982:490)
  9. ^ a b c Árnason (2011:115)
  10. ^ Grevisse & Goosse (2011, §33, b), Fagyal, Kibbee & Jenkins (2006:47)
  11. ^ Arvaniti (2007:20)
  12. ^ Benkő (1972:?)
  13. ^ Recasens (2013:10)
  14. ^ Ashby (2011:64): "(…) in a large number of Italian accents, there is considerable friction involved in the pronunciation of [ʎ], creating a voiced palatal lateral fricative (for which there is no established IPA symbol)."
  15. ^ Skjekkeland (1997:105–107)
  16. ^ Teixeira et al. (2012:321)
  17. ^ Stein (2011:223)
  18. ^ Aragão (2009:168)
  19. ^ Considerações sobre o status das palato-alveolares em português
  20. ^ Ladefoged (2005:149)
  21. ^ Pop (1938), p. 30.
  22. ^ Oftedal (1956:?)
  23. ^ a b Jazić (1977:?), cited in Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996:188)
  24. ^ [1]ALPI
  25. ^ Martínez-Celdrán, Fernández-Planas & Carrera-Sabaté (2003:255)
  26. ^ Lipski (1996) and Alvar (1996). [ Yeísmo en el español de América]