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IPA – number 155
IPA – text l
IPA – image [[File:|{{{imagesize}}}]]
Entity l
Kirshenbaum l
Sound sample

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 are common in Tibeto-Burman languages, but uncommon elsewhere. In such cases, voicing typically starts about halfway through the hold of the consonant



Features of the alveolar lateral approximant:

  • Its manner of articulation is approximant, which means it is produced by bringing one articulator close to another but without the vocal tract being narrowed to such an extent that a turbulent airstream is produced.
  • Its place of articulation is alveolar, which means it is articulated with either the tip or the blade of the tongue — termed respectively apical and laminal — against the alveolar ridge.
  • Its phonation type is voiced, which means the vocal cords are vibrating during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth.
  • It is a lateral consonant, which means it is produced by allowing the airstream to flow over the sides of the tongue, rather than the middle of the tongue.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic egressive, which means it is articulated by pushing air out of the lungs and through the vocal tract, rather than from the glottis or the mouth.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Abkhaz мгьал [mgʲal]'bread'
Arabic Standard[1] صلاة [sˤɑˈlaːh]'prayer/salat'
Chechen лам /lam [laːm]'mountain'
Chinese Mandarin /lǎo [lao˨˩˦]'old' See Standard Mandarin
Czech lis [lis] 'press' See Czech phonology
Dutch leven [leːvə(n)] 'to live' See Dutch phonology
English let [lɛt] 'let' See English phonology
Finnish illalla [ilːɑlːɑ] 'at evening' See Finnish phonology
French lune [lyn] 'moon' See French phonology
Georgian[2] ლუდი [ludi]'beer'
German Liebe [liːbə] 'love' See German phonology
Greek καλόγερος [kä'lo̞ʝe̞ro̞s] 'monk' See Modern Greek phonology
Hungarian elem [ɛlɛm] 'battery' See Hungarian phonology
Italian[3] letto [ˈlɛtto] 'bed' See Italian phonology
Melpa[4] [lola] 'speak improperly'
Ngwe Njoagwi dialect [lɛ̀rɛ́] 'eye'
Norwegian liv [liːv]'life' See Norwegian phonology
Pashto لس [ləs]'ten'
Polish[5] pole [ˈpɔlɛ] 'field' See Polish phonology
Portuguese Brazilian lua [ˈluɐ] 'moon' See Portuguese phonology
Romanian alună [aˈlu.nə] 'hazelnut' See Romanian phonology
Slovak lis [lis] 'press'
Spanish[6] hablar [aˈβ̞laɾ] 'to speak' See Spanish phonology
Swedish allt [alt] 'everything' See Swedish phonology
Tamil[7] புலி [puli] 'tiger' See Tamil phonology
Tibetan ལྷ་ས་ [l̥ʰásə] 'Lhasa' Contrasts voiced and voiceless laterals
Vietnamese lu [lu] 'fuzzy; dim'See Vietnamese phonology
Zapotec Tilquiapan[8] lan [laŋ] 'soot'
Zulu[9] lala [lálà]'sleep'

See also

  • List of phonetics topics



  • Jassem, Wiktor (2003), "Polish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (1): 103-107 
  • Keane, Elinor (2004), "Tamil", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 111-116 
  • Ladefoged, Peter (2005). Vowels and Consonants (Second ed.). Blackwell. 
  • Martínez-Celdrán, Eugenio; Fernández-Planas, Ana Ma.; Carrera-Sabaté, Josefina (2003), "Castilian Spanish", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2): 255-259 
  • Merrill, Elizabeth (2008), "Tilquipan Zapotec", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38 (1): 107-114 
  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117-121 
  • Shosted, Ryan K.; Vakhtang, Chikovani (2006), "Standard Georgian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36 (2): 255-264 
  • Thelwall, Robin (1990), "Illustrations of the IPA: Arabic", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 20 (2): 37-41 

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