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::Lateral consonant

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A lateral is an L-like consonant, in which the airstream proceeds along the sides of the tongue, but is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth.

Most commonly, the tip of the tongue makes contact with the upper teeth (see dental consonant) or the upper gum (the alveolar ridge) just behind the teeth (see alveolar consonant). The most common laterals are approximants and belong to the class of liquids, though lateral fricatives and affricates are common in some parts of the world.

The labiodental fricatives [f] and [v] often—perhaps usually—have lateral airflow, as the lip blocks the airflow in the center, but they are nonetheless not considered lateral consonants because no language makes a distinction between the two possibilities. Plosives are never lateral—although they may have lateral release—and the distinction is meaningless for nasals and for consonants articulated in the throat.

Consonants are not necessarily lateral or central. Some, such as Japanese r, are not defined by centrality: Japanese r varies allophonically between a central flap [ɾ] and a lateral flap [ɺ].


Lateral consonant sections
Intro  Examples  List of laterals  Ambiguous centrality  Lateralized consonants  Notes  See also  References  

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