Voiceless velar lateral fricative

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Voiceless velar lateral fricative

The voiceless velar lateral fricative is a very rare speech sound. As one element of an affricate, it is found for example in Zulu and Xhosa (see velar lateral ejective affricate). However, a simple fricative has only been reported from a few languages in the Caucasus and New Guinea.

Archi, a Northeast Caucasian language of Dagestan, has four voiceless velar lateral fricatives: plain [ʟ̝̊], labialized [ʟ̝̊ʷ], fortis [ʟ̝̊ː], and labialized fortis [ʟ̝̊ːʷ]. Although clearly fricatives, these are further forward than velars in most languages, and might better be called prevelar. Archi also has a voiced fricative, as well as a voiceless and several ejective lateral velar affricates, but no alveolar lateral fricatives or affricates.[1]

In New Guinea, some of the Chimbu–Wahgi languages such as Melpa, Middle Wahgi, and Nii, have a voiceless velar lateral fricative, which they write with a double-bar el (Ⱡ, ⱡ). This sound also appears in syllable coda position as an allophone of the voiced velar lateral fricative in Kuman.[2]

The IPA has no separate symbol for these sounds, but they can be transcribed as a devoiced raised velar lateral approximant, ʟ̝̊ (here the devoicing ring diacritic is placed above the letter to avoid clashing with the raising diacritic). By analogy with existing IPA laterals, a small capital is used in the extIPA:

Velar lateral fricative.png

SIL International has added these symbols to the Private Use Areas of their Gentium, Charis and Doulos fonts, at U+F268 ().


Features of the voiceless velar lateral fricative:

  • Its manner of articulation is fricative, which means it is produced by constricting air flow through a narrow channel at the place of articulation, causing turbulence.
  • Its place of articulation is velar, which means it is articulated with the back of the tongue at the soft palate.
  • 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 airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Archi лъат [ʟ̝̊at] 'sea'


Note: the first source uses the symbol for the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative, [ɬ], but also states that the sound is prevelar.

  1. ^ the Archi language tutorial
  2. ^ Steed, W., & Hardie, P. (2004). Acoustic Properties of the Kuman Voiceless Velar Lateral Fricative. Proceedings of the 10th Australian International Conference on Speech Science & Technology, Sydney. [1]