Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

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Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
IPA Number148
Entity (decimal)ɬ
Unicode (hex)U+026C
Audio sample

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 symbol [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 (e.g. Llwyd /ɬʊɨd/, Llywelyn /ɬəˈwɛlɨn/) have been borrowed into English, where they either retain the Welsh ⟨ll⟩ spelling but are pronounced with an /l/ (Lloyd, Llewellyn), or are substituted with ⟨fl⟩ (pronounced /fl/) (Floyd, Fluellen).


Features of the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative:[citation needed]

  • 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 indigenous languages of the Americas such as Nahuatl, Navajo,[2], and North Caucasian languages, such as Avar.[3] It is also found in African languages like Zulu, Asian languages like Chukchi and some Yue dialects like Taishanese, and several Formosan languages and a number of dialects in Taiwan.[4]

The sound is found in two artificial languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, Sindarin (inspired by Welsh) and Quenya.[5][6]

Dental or denti-alveolar[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Mapudungun[7] kagü [kɜˈɣɘɬ̪] 'phlegm that is spit' Interdental; possible utterance-final allophone of /l̪/.[7]
Norwegian Trondheim dialect[8] lt [s̪aɬ̪t̪] 'sold' Laminal denti-alveolar; allophone of /l/. Also described as an approximant [l̪̊].[9] See Norwegian phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Ahtna dzeł [tsəɬ] 'mountain'
Aleut Atkan dialect hla [ɬɑχ] '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 Isbukun ludun [ɬuɗun] 'mountain'
Bura[10] [example needed] Contrasts with [ɮ] and [ʎ̝̊].[10]
Cherokee Some speakers [ə̃ʔɬa] 'no' Corresponds to [tɬ] in the speech of most speakers
Chickasaw lhinko [ɬiŋko] 'to be fat'
Chinese Taishanese[11] [ɬam˧] 'three' Corresponds to [s] in Standard Cantonese
Pu-Xian Min 'sand'
Chipewyan łue [ɬue] 'fish'
Chukchi ԓевыт [ɬeβət] 'head'
Circassian плъыжь About this sound[pɬəʑ]  'red'
Creek (Mvskoke) rakkē [ɬakkiː] 'big' Historically transcribed thl or tl by English speakers
Dahalo [ʡáɬi] 'fat'
Dogrib ło [ɬo] 'smoke'
Eyak qeł [qʰɛʔɬ] 'woman'
Fali [paɬkan] 'shoulder'
Faroese hjálp [jɔɬp] 'help'
Forest Nenets хару [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'
Halkomelem ɬ'eqw [ɬeqw] 'wet'
Hebrew Biblical שָׂטָן [ɬɑtˤɑn] 'Satan'
Hla'alua hla [ɬɑ] 'and'
Hmong hli About this sound[ɬi]  'moon'
Icelandic siglt [sɪɬt] 'have sailed'
Inuktitut akłak [akɬak] 'grizzly bear' See Inuit phonology
Kabardian лъы About this sound[ɬə]  '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]
Lushootseed łukʷał [ɬukʷaɬ] 'sun'
Mapudungun[7] kaül [kɜˈɘɬ] 'a different song' Possible utterance-final allophone of /l/.[7]
Mochica paxllær [paɬøɾ] Phaseolus lunatus
Moloko sla [ɬa] 'cow'
Mongolian лхагва [ɬaʁʷ] 'Wednesday' Only in loanwords from Tibetan[12]; here from ལྷག་པ (lhag-pa)
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
Nuxalk ɬm [ɬm] 'to stand'
Saanich ȽNIṈEȽ [ɬníŋəɬ] 'we', 'us'
Saaroa rahli [raɬi] 'chief'
Sahaptin łp’úł [ˈɬpʼuɬ] 'tears'
Sandawe lhaa [ɬáː] 'goat'
Sassarese morthu About this sound[ˈmoɬtu]  'dead'
Sawi ɬo 'three' developed out of the earlier tr consonant clusters[13]
Shuswap ɬept [ɬept] 'fire is out'
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 łiwéna [ɬìˈwēnæ] 'wife' See Taos phonology
Tera[14] tleebi [ɬè̞ːbi] 'side'
Thao kilhpul [kiɬpul] 'star'
Tlingit lingít [ɬìnkít] 'Tlingit'
Tsez лъи About this sound[ɬi]  'water'
Welsh llall [ɬaːɬ] '(the) other' See Welsh phonology
Yi ꆧꁨ hlop-bbop [ɬo˧˩bo˧˩] 'moon'
Zulu isihlahla [isíˈɬaːɬa] 'tree'
Zuni asdemła [ʔastemɬan] 'ten'

Semitic languages[edit]

The sound is conjectured as a phoneme for Proto-Semitic language, 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[citation needed] and Mehri.[15] In Ge'ez, it is written with the letter Śawt.[citation needed]

Artificial languages[edit]

Language Word IPA Meaning
Quenya hlócë ['ɬɔːkɛ] 'snake, serpent'
Sindarin lhô [ɬɔː] 'flood'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 203. ISBN 0-631-19815-6.
  2. ^ McDonough, Joyce (2003). The Navajo Sound System. Cambridge: Kluwer. ISBN 1-4020-1351-5.
  3. ^ Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-521-45655-X.
  4. ^ Henry Y., Chang (2000). 噶瑪蘭語參考語法 (Kavalan Grammar). Taipei: 遠流 (Yuan-Liou). pp. 43–45. ISBN 9573238985.
  5. ^ Helge, Fauskanger. "Sindarin - the Noble Tongue". Ardalambion. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  6. ^ Helge, Fauskanger. "Quenya Course". Ardalambion. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Sadowsky et al. (2013:88, 91)
  8. ^ Kristoffersen (2000:79)
  9. ^ Vanvik (1979:36)
  10. ^ a b Grønnum (2005:154–155)
  11. ^ Taishanese Dictionary & Resources
  12. ^ Svantesson et al. (2005:30–33)
  13. ^ Liljegren, Henrik (2009). "The Dangari Tongue of Choke and Machoke: Tracing the proto-language of Shina enclaves in the Hindu Kush". Acta Orientalia (70): 7–62.
  14. ^ Tench (2007:228)
  15. ^ Howe, Darin (2003). Segmental Phonology. University of Calgary. p. 22.


Further reading[edit]

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