Voiceless dental and alveolar lateral fricatives

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 is distinct from "l with tilde", [ɫ], which transcribes a different sound, the velarized alveolar lateral approximant.

Voiceless alveolar lateral fricative
IPA Number148
Entity (decimal)ɬ
Unicode (hex)U+026C
Audio sample
Voiceless alveolar lateral approximant
IPA Number155 402A

Some scholars also posit the voiceless alveolar lateral approximant distinct from the fricative. The approximant may be represented in the IPA as ⟨⟩.


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.


The sound is fairly common among indigenous languages of the Americas, such as Nahuatl and Navajo,[1] and in North Caucasian languages, such as Avar.[2] It is also found in African languages, such as Zulu, and Asian languages, such as Chukchi, some Yue dialects like Taishanese, the Hlai languages of Hainan, and several Formosan languages and dialects in Taiwan.[3]

The sound is rare in European languages outside the Caucasus, but it is found notably in Welsh in which it is written ⟨ll⟩.[4] Several Welsh names beginning with this sound (Llwyd [ɬʊɨd], Llywelyn [ɬəˈwɛlɨn]) have been borrowed into English and then retain the Welsh ⟨ll⟩ spelling but are pronounced with an /l/ (Lloyd, Llewellyn), or they are substituted with ⟨fl⟩ (pronounced /fl/) (Floyd, Fluellen). It was also found in certain dialects of Lithuanian Yiddish.

The phoneme /ɬ/ was also found in the most ancient Hebrew speech of the Ancient Israelites. The orthography of Biblical Hebrew, however, did not directly indicate the phoneme since it and several other phonemes of Ancient Hebrew did not have a grapheme of their own. The phoneme, however, is clearly attested by later developments: /ɬ/ was written with ⟨ש‎⟩, but the letter was also used for the sound /ʃ/. Later, /ɬ/ merged with /s/, a sound that had been written only with ⟨ס‎⟩. As a result, three etymologically-distinct modern Hebrew phonemes can be distinguished: /s/ written ⟨ס‎⟩, /ʃ/ written ⟨ש‎⟩ (with later niqqud pointing שׁ), and /s/ evolving from /ɬ/ and written ⟨ש‎⟩ (with later niqqud pointing שׂ). The specific pronunciation of ⟨ש‎⟩ evolving from /s/ from [ɬ] is known based on comparative evidence since /ɬ/ is the corresponding Proto-Semitic phoneme and is still attested in Modern South Arabian languages,[5] and early borrowings indicate it from Ancient Hebrew (e.g. balsam < Greek balsamon < Hebrew baśam). The phoneme /ɬ/ began to merge with /s/ in Late Biblical Hebrew, as is indicated by interchange of orthographic ⟨ש‎⟩ and ⟨ס‎⟩, possibly under the influence of Aramaic, and became the rule in Mishnaic Hebrew.[6][7] In all Jewish reading traditions, /ɬ/ and /s/ have merged completely, but in Samaritan Hebrew /ɬ/ has instead merged into /ʃ/.[6]

The [ɬ] sound is also found in two of the constructed languages invented by J. R. R. Tolkien, Sindarin (inspired by Welsh) and Quenya (inspired by Finnish, Ancient Greek, and Latin).[8][9] In Sindarin, it is written as ⟨lh⟩ initially and ⟨ll⟩ medially and finally, and in Quenya, it appears only initially and is written ⟨hl⟩.

Dental or denti-alveolarEdit

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Mapudungun[10] kagü [kɜˈɣɘɬ̪] 'phlegm that is spit' Interdental; possible utterance-final allophone of /l̪/.[10]
Norwegian Trondheim dialect[11] lt [s̪aɬ̪t̪] 'sold' Laminal denti-alveolar; allophone of /l/. Also described as an approximant.[12] See Norwegian phonology
Turkish[13] yol [ˈjo̞ɫ̪̊] 'way' Devoiced allophone of velarized dental /ɫ/, frequent finally and before voiceless consonants.[13] See Turkish phonology


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Ahtna dzeł [tsɛɬ] '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[14] [example needed] Contrasts with [ɮ] and [ʎ̝̊].[14]
Cherokee Some speakers [ə̃ʔɬa] 'no' Corresponds to [tɬ] in the speech of most speakers
Chickasaw lhinko [ɬiŋko] 'to be fat'
Chinese Taishanese[15] [ɬam˧] 'three' Corresponds to [s] in Standard Cantonese
Pu-Xian Min [ɬua˥˧˧] 'sand'
Chipewyan łue [ɬue] 'fish'
Chukchi ԓевыт [ɬeβət] 'head'
Creek (Mvskoke) rakkē [ɬakkiː] 'big' Historically transcribed thl or tl by English speakers
Danish Standard[16] plads [ˈpl̥æs] 'square' Before /l/, aspiration of /p, t, k/ is realized as devoicing of /l/.[16] See Danish phonology
Dahalo [ʡáɬi] 'fat'
Dogrib ło [ɬo] 'smoke'
Estonian[17] mahl [mɑ̝hːl̥] 'juice' Word-final allophone of /l/ after /t, s, h/.[17] See Estonian phonology
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 [ɬɑːtˤɑːn] 'Satan'
Hla'alua hla [ɬɑ] 'and'
Hlai Has Hlai hla 'fish'
Hmong hli  [ɬi]  'moon'
Icelandic hlýr [l̥iːr̥] 'warm' See Icelandic phonology.
Inuktitut akłak [akɬak] 'grizzly bear' See Inuit phonology
Kabardian лъы  [ɬə]  'blood'
Kaska tsį̄ł [tsʰĩːɬ] 'axe'
Kham Gamale Kham[18] ह्ला [ɬɐ] 'leaf'
Lushootseed łukʷał [ɬukʷaɬ] 'sun'
Mapudungun[10] kaül [kɜˈɘɬ] 'a different song' Possible utterance-final allophone of /l/.[10]
Mochica paxllær [paɬøɾ] Phaseolus lunatus
Moloko sla [ɬa] 'cow'
Mongolian лхагва [ˈɬaw̜ɐk] 'Wednesday' Only in loanwords from Tibetan;[19] 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 lhm [ɬm] 'to stand'
Saanich ȽNIṈEȽ [ɬníŋəɬ] 'we, us'
Saaroa rahli [raɬi] 'chief'
Sahaptin łp’úł [ˈɬpʼuɬ] 'tears'
Sandawe lhaa [ɬáː] 'goat'
Sassarese morthu  [ˈmoɬtu]  'dead'
Sawi ɬo [ɬo] 'three' Developed out of the earlier tr consonant clusters[20]
Shuswap ɬept [ɬept] 'fire is out'
Sotho ho hlahloba [ho ɬɑɬɔbɑ] 'to examine' See Sotho phonology
St’át’imcets lhésp [ɬə́sp] 'rash'
Swedish Jämtlandic kallt [kaɬt] 'cold' See Swedish phonology
Taos łiwéna [ɬìˈwēnæ] 'wife' See Taos phonology
Tera[21] tleebi [ɬè̞ːbi] 'side'
Thao kilhpul [kiɬpul] 'star'
Tlingit lingít [ɬɪ̀nkɪ́tʰ] 'Tlingit'
Ukrainian[22] смисл [s̪mɪs̪l̥] 'sense' Word-final allophone of /l/ after voiceless consonants.[22] See Ukrainian phonology
Tsez лъи  [ɬi]  'water'
Welsh llall [ɬaːɬ] '(the) other' See Welsh phonology
Xhosa sihlala [síˈɬaːla] 'we stay'
Xumi Lower[23] [RPʁul̥o] 'head' Described as an approximant. Contrasts with the voiced /l/.[23][24]
Upper[24] [EPbəl̥ɐ] 'to open a lock'
Yi ꆧꁨ hlop-bbop [ɬo˧˩bo˧˩] 'moon'
Yurok[25] kerhl [kɚɬ] 'earring'
Zulu isihlahla [isíˈɬaːɬa] 'tree'
Zuni asdemła [ʔastemɬan] 'ten'

Semitic languagesEdit

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 שׂ s ܫ s ś

Amongst Semitic languages, the sound still exists in contemporary Soqotri[citation needed] and Mehri.[26] In Ge'ez, it is written with the letter Śawt.[citation needed]

Capital letterEdit

Latin Capital Letter L with Belt

Since the IPA letter "ɬ" has been adopted into the standard orthographies for many native North American languages, a capital letter L with belt "Ɬ" was requested by academics and added to the Unicode Standard version 7.0 in 2014 at U+A7AD.[27][28]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ McDonough, Joyce (2003). The Navajo Sound System. Cambridge: Kluwer. ISBN 1-4020-1351-5.
  2. ^ Laver, John (1994). Principles of Phonetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 257–258. ISBN 0-521-45655-X.
  3. ^ Henry Y., Chang (2000). 噶瑪蘭語參考語法 [Kavalan Grammar]. Taipei: 遠流 (Yuan-Liou). pp. 43–45. ISBN 9573238985.
  4. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 203.
  5. ^ Blau (2010:77)
  6. ^ a b Blau (2010:69)
  7. ^ Rendsburg (1997:73)
  8. ^ Helge, Fauskanger. "Sindarin – the Noble Tongue". Ardalambion. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  9. ^ Helge, Fauskanger. "Quenya Course". Ardalambion. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d Sadowsky et al. (2013), pp. 88, 91.
  11. ^ Kristoffersen (2000), p. 79.
  12. ^ Vanvik (1979), p. 36.
  13. ^ a b Zimmer & Orgun (1999), pp. 154–155.
  14. ^ a b Grønnum (2005), pp. 154–155.
  15. ^ Taishanese Dictionary & Resources
  16. ^ a b Basbøll (2005), pp. 65–66.
  17. ^ a b Asu & Teras (2009), p. 368.
  18. ^ Wilde, Christopher P. (2016). "Gamale Kham phonology revisited, with Devanagari-based orthography and lexicon". Journal of the Southeast Asian Linguistics Society. ISSN 1836-6821.
  19. ^ Svantesson et al. (2005), pp. 30–33.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Tench (2007), p. 228.
  22. ^ a b Danyenko & Vakulenko (1995), p. 10.
  23. ^ a b Chirkova & Chen (2013), pp. 365, 367–368.
  24. ^ a b Chirkova, Chen & Kocjančič Antolík (2013), pp. 382–383.
  25. ^ "Yurok consonants". Yurok Language Project. UC Berkeley. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  26. ^ Howe, Darin (2003). Segmental Phonology. University of Calgary. p. 22.
  27. ^ Joshua M Jensen, Karl Pentzlin, 2012-02-08, Proposal to encode a Latin Capital Letter L with Belt
  28. ^ "Unicode Character 'LATIN CAPITAL LETTER L WITH BELT' (U+A7AD)". www.fileformat.info. FileFormat.Info. Retrieved 20 June 2020.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit