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Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

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Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
IPA number 148
Entity (decimal) ɬ
Unicode (hex) U+026C
Kirshenbaum s

The voiceless alveolar lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents voiceless dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral fricatives is ɬ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is K. The letter ɬ is called "belted l" and should not be confused with "l with tilde", ɫ, which transcribes a different sound, the velarized alveolar lateral approximant. It should also be distinguished from a voiceless alveolar lateral approximant, although the fricative is sometimes incorrectly described as a "voiceless l", a description fitting only of the approximant.

Several Welsh names beginning with this sound have been borrowed into English, where they either retain the Welsh ll spelling but are pronounced with an /l/ (Lloyd, Llywelyn), or are substituted with /fl/ (Floyd, Fluellen).


  • Features 1
  • Occurrence 2
    • Dental or denti-alveolar 2.1
    • Alveolar 2.2
    • Semitic languages 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6


Features of the voiceless alveolar 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 alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue at the alveolar ridge, termed respectively apical and laminal.
  • 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.


Although the sound is rare among European languages outside the Caucasus (being found notably in Welsh, where it is written ll),[1] it is fairly common among Native American languages, such as Navajo,[2] and North Caucasian languages, such as Avar.[3] It is also found in African languages like Zulu, Asian languages like Chukchi and Taishanese, and several Formosan languages and a number of dialects in Taiwan.

Dental or denti-alveolar

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Mapudungun[4] kagü [kɜˈɣɘɬ̪] 'phlegm that is spit' Interdental; possible utterance-final allophone of /l̪/.[4]


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Adyghe плъыжь     'red'
Ahtna dzeł [tsəɬ] 'mountain'
Aleut Atkan dialect hla [ɬɑ] 'boy'
Amis Southern dialect kudiwis [kuɬiwis] 'rabbit'
Avar лъабго [ˈɬabɡo] 'three'
Basay lanum [ɬanum] 'water'
Berber Ait Seghrouchen altu [æˈɬʊw] 'not yet' Allophone of /lt/
Bunun ludun [ɬuɗun] 'mountain'
Bura[5] Contrasts with [ɮ] and [ʎ̝̊].[5]
Cherokee Some speakers [ə̃ʔɬa] 'no' Corresponds to [tɬ] in the speech of most speakers
Chickasaw lhinko [ɬiŋko] 'to be fat'
Chinese Taishanese[6] [ɬam˧] 'three'
Chukchi ԓевыт [ɬeβət] 'head'
Creek rakkē [ɬakkiː] 'big' Historically transcribed thl or tl by English speakers
Dahalo [ʡáɬi] 'fat'
Eyak qe'ł [qʰɛʔɬ] 'woman'
Fali [paɬkan] 'shoulder'
Faroese hjálp [jɔɬp] 'help'
Forest Nenets [xaɬʲu] 'rain' Forest Nenets has both plain /ɬ/ and palatalized /ɬʲ/
Greenlandic illu [iɬːu] 'house' Realization of geminated /l/
Hadza sleme [ɬeme] 'man'
Haida tla'únhl [tɬʰʌʔʊ́nɬ] 'six'
Hmong hli     'moon'
Icelandic siglt [sɪɬt] 'have sailed'
Inuktitut akłak [akɬak] 'grizzly bear' See Inuit phonology
Kabardian лъы     'blood'
Kaska tsį̄ł [tsʰĩːɬ] 'axe'
Khanty Surgut dialect ԓӓпәт [ˈɬæpət] 'seven' Contrasts with palatalized /ɬʲ/. Corresponds to /l/ or /t/ in other dialects
Kazym dialect ԓапәт [ˈɬɑpət]
Mapudungun[4] kaül [kɜˈɘɬ] 'a different song' Possible utterance-final allophone of /l/.[4]
Mochica paxllær [paɬøɾ] 'lima bean'
Moloko sla [ɬa] 'cow'
Nahuatl āltepētl [aːɬˈtɛpɛːt͡ɬ] 'city' Allophone of /l/
Navajo ł [ɬaʔ] 'some' See Navajo phonology
Nisga'a hloks [ɬoks] 'Sun'
Norwegian Trøndersk tatl / tasl [tʰɑɬ] 'sissiness' See Norwegian phonology
Saaroa rahli [raɬi] 'chief'
Sahaptin łp’úł [ˈɬpʼuɬ] 'tears'
Sandawe lhaa [ɬáː] 'goat'
Sassarese morthu About this sound [ˈmoɬtu]   'dead'
Sotho ho hlahloba [ho ɬɑɬɔbɑ] 'to examine' See Sotho phonology
St’át’imcets lhésp [ɬə́sp] 'rash'
Swedish Jamtlandic kallt [kaɬt] 'cold' See Swedish phonology
Taos [ɬìˈwēnæ] 'wife' See Taos phonology
Thao kilhpul [kiɬpul] 'star'
Tlingit lingít [ɬìnkít] 'person; Tlingit'
Tsez лъи     'water'
Welsh llall [ɬaːɬ] '(the) other' See Welsh phonology
Yi ꆧꁨ hlop-bbop [ɬo˧˩bo˧˩] 'moon'
Zulu isihlahla [isiˈɬaːɬa] 'tree'
Zuni asdemła [ʔastemɬan] 'ten'

Semitic languages

The sound is conjectured as a phoneme for Proto-Semitic, usually transcribed as ś; it has evolved into Arabic [ʃ], Hebrew, [s]:

Proto-Semitic Akkadian Arabic Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Ge'ez
ś ش š š š שׂ s ܫ s ś

Amongst Semitic languages, the sound still exists in contemporary Soqotri and Mehri.[7] In Ge'ez, it is written with the letter Śawt.

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 203.  
  2. ^ McDonough, Joyce (2003). The Navajo Sound System. Cambridge: Kluwer.  
  3. ^ Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 257–258.  
  4. ^ a b c d Sadowsky et al. (2013:88, 91)
  5. ^ a b Grønnum (2005:154–155)
  6. ^ Taishanese Dictionary & Resources
  7. ^ Howe, Darin (2003). Segmental Phonology. University of Calgary. p. 22. 


  • Grønnum, Nina (2005), Fonetik og fonologi, Almen og Dansk (3rd ed.), Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag,  
  • Sadowsky, Scott; Painequeo, Héctor; Salamanca, Gastón; Avelino, Heriberto (2013), "Mapudungun", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (1): 87–96,  

External links

  • Beth am y llall? John Wells's phonetic blog, 1 July 2009. (How the British phonetician John Wells would teach the sound [ɬ].)
  • A chance to share more than just some sounds of languages, 3 May 2012 (Article by Dr Paul Tench including information on transcribing [ɬ] in Chadic languages.)
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