The voiceless alveolar lateral frictive {Phonetics Series: 1}

In Welsh this sound is represented by an ‘ll;’ in Navajo it is represented by an ‘Ł;’ and the International Phonetic Alphabet the ‘[ɬ].’ It is called the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative.  The voiced counterpart (i.d. the voiced alveolar lateral fricative) is given in the IPA as ‘[ɮ].’ Both are pulmonic consonants. The sound also appears in Zulu and other languages, Icelandic has the voiceless lateral affricate. 

These names tell one three things, one need only be able to decode them. They tell the voicing, place of articulation, and the manner of articulation. Voicing is an indication of if the larynx vibrates during articulation. To tell if a consonant is voiceless or voiced, one may place the hand on the throat above the larynx, and repeat the sounds [p], [b], [t], and [d]. [These four are the voiceless and voiced pairs of the bilabial plosives ([p], [b]) and the dental plosives ([t], [d]).] Place of articulation tells where the sound is made. This chart shows the major areas of the mouth and throat used in articulation:


Manner of articulation indicates how the sound is produced. There are the plosive, nasal, thrill, flap, fricative, lateral fricative, approximate, lateral approximate, and some other less common manners. 

How is the Welsh ‘ll’ said? 

According to Mr. T. J. Rhys Jones’s book, Teach Yourself Welsh,  the ‘ll’ is pronounced “by putting the tongue in the l position and trying to hiss.”

If this is still unclear one can break down the pronunciation of the sound by its phonological name, voiceless alveolar lateral fricative.

Voiceless: the larynx should not rumble in pronunciation.

Alveolar: the tongue is placed on the alveolar ridge during articulation.

Lateral fricative: air is forced around the sides of the tongue (lateral) and made by friction of the voice in a narrow opening (fricative).

A link to a webpage on which the sound and all IPA sounds can by heard from audio recording is provided here: IPA Tutorial (note: this writer is unaware of any safety threats from this website, none are suspected. Furthermore, QuickTime is required to listen to the audio recordings.)

Examples of the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative in use:

Welsh: llan (church)

Navajo: Ła’  (some, a, an)


Hall, G. (1971). Kee’s Home: A Beginning Navajo/ English Reader. United States of America: n/a. 

Jones, R. T. J. (1992). Teach Yourself Welsh: A Complete Course for Beginners. Lincolnwood (Chicago), Illinois, U.S.A.: NTC Publishing Group.




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