A lateral is consonant in which the airstream proceeds along the sides of the tongue, but it is blocked by the tongue from going through the middle of the mouth. An example of a lateral consonant is the English l, as in Larry.
For the most common laterals, the tip of the tongue makes contact with the upper teeth (see dental consonant) or the upper gum (see alveolar consonant), but there are many other possible places for laterals to be made. The most common laterals are approximants and belong to the class of liquids, but lateral fricatives and affricates are also common in some parts of the world. Some languages, such as the Iwaidja and Ilgar languages of Australia, have lateral flaps, and others, such as the Xhosa and Zulu languages of Africa, have lateral clicks.
When pronouncing the labiodental fricatives [f] and [v], the lip blocks the airflow in the centre of the vocal tract, so the airstream proceeds along the sides instead. Nevertheless, they are not considered lateral consonants because the airflow never goes over the tongue. No known language makes a distinction between lateral and non-lateral labiodentals. Plosives are never lateral, but they may have lateral release. Nasals are never lateral either, but some languages have lateral nasal clicks. For consonants articulated in the throat (laryngeals), the lateral distinction is not made by any language, although pharyngeal and epiglottal laterals are reportedly possible.
English has one lateral phoneme: the lateral approximant /l/, which in many accents has two allophones. One, found before vowels as in lady or fly, is called clear l, pronounced as the alveolar lateral approximant [l] with a "neutral" position of the body of the tongue. The other variant, so-called dark l found before consonants or word-finally, as in bold or tell, is pronounced as the velarized alveolar lateral approximant [ɫ] with the tongue assuming a spoon-like shape with its back part raised, which gives the sound a [w]- or [ʟ]-like resonance. In some languages, like Albanian, those two sounds are different phonemes. East Slavic languages contrast [ɫ] and [lʲ] but do not have [l].
In many British accents (e.g. Cockney), dark [ɫ] may undergo vocalization through the reduction and loss of contact between the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge, becoming a rounded back vowel or glide. This process turns tell into something like [tɛɰ], as must have happened with talk [tɔːk] or walk [wɔːk] at some stage. A similar process happened during the development of many other languages, including Brazilian Portuguese, Old French, and Polish, in all three of these resulting in [ɰ] or [w], whence Modern French sauce as compared with Spanish salsa, or Polish Wisła (pronounced [viswa]) as compared with English Vistula.
In central and Venice dialects of Venetian, intervocalic /l/ has turned into a semivocalic [e̯], so that the written word ła bała is pronounced [abae̯a]. The orthography uses the letter ł to represent this phoneme (it specifically represents not the [e̯] sound but the phoneme that is, in some dialects, [e̯] and, in others, [l]).
Many aboriginal Australian languages have a series of three or four lateral approximants, as do various dialects of Irish. Rarer lateral consonants include the retroflex laterals that can be found in many languages of India and in some Swedish dialects, and the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative /ɬ/, found in many Native North American languages, Welsh and Zulu. In Adyghe and some Athabaskan languages like Hän, both voiceless and voiced alveolar lateral fricatives occur, but there is no approximant. Many of these languages also have lateral affricates. Some languages have palatal or velar voiceless lateral fricatives or affricates, such as Dahalo and Zulu, but the IPA has no symbols for such sounds. However, appropriate symbols are easy to make by adding a lateral-fricative belt to the symbol for the corresponding lateral approximant (see below). Also, a devoicing diacritic may be added to the approximant.
Nearly all languages with such lateral obstruents also have the approximant. However, there are a number of exceptions, many of them located in the Pacific Northwest area of the United States. For example, Tlingit has /tɬ, tɬʰ, tɬʼ, ɬ, ɬʼ/ but no /l/.[a] Other examples from the same area include Nuu-chah-nulth and Kutenai, and elsewhere, Chukchi and Kabardian.
Lateral trills are also possible, but they do not occur in any known language. They may be pronounced by initiating [ɬ] or [ɮ] with an especially forceful airflow. There is no symbol for them in the IPA. They are sometimes used to imitate bird calls, and they are a component of Donald Duck talk.
Only the alveolar lateral fricatives have dedicated letters in the IPA. However, others appear in the extIPA.
The IPA requires sounds to be defined as to centrality, as either central or lateral. However, languages may be ambiguous as to some consonants' laterality. A well-known example is the liquid consonant in Japanese, represented in common transliteration systems as ⟨r⟩, which can be recognized as a (post)alveolar tap, alveolar lateral flap, (post)alveolar lateral approximant, (post)alveolar approximant, voiced retroflex stop, and various less common forms.
A superscript ⟨ˡ⟩ is defined as lateral release.
Consonants may also be pronounced with simultaneous lateral and central airflow. This is well-known from speech pathology with a lateral lisp. However, it also occurs in nondisordered speech in some southern Arabic dialects and possibly some Modern South Arabian languages, which have pharyngealized nonsibilant /ʪˤ/ and /ʫˤ/ (simultaneous [θ͜ɬˤ] and [ð͡ɮˤ]) and possibly a sibilant /ʪ/ (simultaneous [s͜ɬ]). Examples are /θˡˤaim/ 'pain' in the dialect of Al-Rubu'ah and /ðˡˤahr/ 'back' and /ðˡˤabʕ/ 'hyena' in Rijal Alma'.  (Here the ⟨ˡ⟩ indicates simultaneous laterality rather than lateral release.) Old Arabic has been analyzed as having the emphatic central–lateral fricatives [θ͜ɬˤ], [ð͡ɮˤ] and [ʃ͡ɬˤ].
The alveolar lateral ejective fricative is a type of consonantal sound, reported in the Northwest Caucasian languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɬʼ⟩.Central consonant
A central consonant, also known as a median consonant, is a consonant sound that is produced when air flows across the center of the mouth over the tongue. The class contrasts with lateral consonants, in which air flows over the sides of the tongue rather than down its center.
Examples of central consonants are the voiced alveolar fricative (the "z" in the English word "zoo") and the palatal approximant (the "y" in the English word "yes"). Others are the central fricatives [θ ð s z ʃ ʒ ʂ ʐ ɕ ʑ ç ʝ x ɣ χ ʁ], the central approximants [ɹ ɻ j ɥ ɰ w ʍ], the trills [r ʀ], and the central flaps [ɾ ɽ].
The term is most relevant for approximants and fricatives (for which there are contrasting lateral and central consonants - e.g. [l] versus [ɹ] and [ɮ] versus [z]). Stops that have "lateral release" can be written in the International Phonetic Alphabet using a superscript symbol, e.g. [tˡ], or can be implied by a following lateral consonant, e.g. [tɬ]. The labial fricatives [f v] often—perhaps usually—have lateral airflow, as occlusion between the teeth and lips blocks the airflow in the center, but nonetheless they are not considered lateral consonants because no language makes a distinction between the two.
In some languages, the centrality of a phoneme may be indeterminate. In Japanese, for example, there is a liquid phoneme /r/, which may be either central or lateral, resulting in /ro/ produced as either [ɾo] or [lo].Delateralization
Delateralization is a replacement of a lateral consonant by a central consonant.Lateral
Lateral is a geometric term of location which may refer to:
Lateral (academic journal), journal of the Cultural Studies Association
Lateral cricoarytenoid muscle
Lateral (anatomy), an anatomical direction
Lateral canal, a canal built beside another stream
Lateral consonant, an l-like consonant in which air flows along the sides of the tongue
Lateral hiring, recruiting that targets employees of another organization
Lateral mark, a sea mark used in maritime pilotage to indicate the edge of a channel
Lateral pass, a type of pass in American and Canadian football
Lateral release, a surgical procedure on the side of a kneecap
Lateral release (phonetics), the release of a plosive consonant into a lateral consonant
Lateral stability of aircraft during flight
Lateral support (disambiguation), various meanings
Lateral thinking, the solution of problems through an indirect and creative approachLateral release (phonetics)
In phonetics, a lateral release is the release of a plosive consonant into a lateral consonant. Such sounds are transcribed in the IPA with a superscript ⟨l⟩, for example as [tˡ] in English spotless [ˈspɒtˡlɨs]. In English words such as middle in which, historically, the tongue made separate contacts with the alveolar ridge for the /d/ and /l/, [ˈmɪdəl], many speakers today make only one tongue contact. That is, the /d/ is laterally released directly into the /l/: [ˈmɪdˡl̩]. While this is a minor phonetic detail in English (in fact, it is commonly transcribed as having no audible release: [ˈspɒt̚lɨs], [ˈmɪd̚l̩]), it may be more important in other languages.
In most languages (as in English), laterally-released plosives are straightforwardly analyzed as biphonemic clusters whose second element is /l/. In the Hmong language, however, it is sometimes claimed that laterally-released consonants are unitary phonemes. According to Peter Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson, the choice between one or another analysis is purely based on phonological convenience—there is no actual acoustic or articulatory difference between one language's "laterally-released plosive" and another language's biphonemic cluster.Palatal lateral ejective affricate
The palatal lateral ejective affricate is a rare type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨c͡ʎ̝̊ʼ⟩.
It is a rare sound, found in Dahalo, a Cushitic language of Kenya, and in Hadza, a language isolate of Tanzania. In Dahalo, /c͡ʎ̥̝ʼ/ contrasts with alveolar /tɬʼ/, and in Hadza it contrasts with velar [k͡ʟ̝̊ʼ], an allophone of /kʼ/.Palatal lateral flap
The palatal lateral flap is a rare type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. There is no dedicated symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound. However, the symbol for a palatal lateral approximant with a breve denoting extra-short ⟨ʎ̆⟩ may be used .Tenuis lateral click
The voiceless or more precisely tenuis lateral click is a click consonant found primarily among the languages of southern Africa. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ǁ⟩. The Doke/Beach convention, adopted for a time by the IPA and still preferred by some linguists, is ⟨ʖ⟩.Uvular lateral approximant
The uvular lateral approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʟ̠⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is L\_-. ⟨ʟ̠⟩ may also represent the pharyngeal or epiglottal lateral approximant, a physically possible sound that is not attested in any language. The letter for a back-velar in the Uralic Phonetic Alphabet, ⟨ᴫ⟩, may also be used.Vibrant consonant
In phonetics, a vibrant is a class of consonant including taps and trills (a trill is, "sometimes referred to as a vibrant consonant."). Spanish has two vibrants, /r/ and /ɾ/.
The term is sometimes used when it is not clear whether the rhotic (r-sound) in a language is a tap or a trill.Voiced alveolar lateral affricate
The voiced alveolar lateral affricate is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is ⟨d͡ɮ⟩ (often simplified to ⟨dɮ⟩).Voiced lateral click
The voiced lateral click is a click consonant found primarily among the languages of southern Africa. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ǁ̬⟩ or ⟨ᶢǁ⟩; a symbol abandoned by the IPA but still preferred by some linguists is ⟨ʖ̬⟩ or ⟨ᶢʖ⟩.
In languages which use the Bantu letters for clicks, this is most commonly written ⟨gx⟩, but it is written ⟨dx⟩ in those languages that use ⟨g⟩ for the uvular fricative.Voiced palatal lateral fricative
The voiced palatal lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ʎ̝⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is L_r.
It is not known to occur as a phoneme in any language, but it does occur as an allophone of /ʎ/ in Italian and Jebero.Voiced retroflex lateral fricative
The voiced retroflex lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound. The IPA has no symbol for this sound.Voiced velar lateral affricate
The voiced velar lateral affricate is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ɡʟ̝. This consonant exists in the Laghuu and Hiw languages.Voiced velar lateral fricative
The voiced velar lateral fricative is a very rare speech sound that can be found in Archi, a Northeast Caucasian language of Dagestan, in which it is clearly a fricative, although further forward than velars in most languages, and might better be called prevelar. Archi also has various voiceless fricatives and voiceless and ejective affricates at the same place of articulation.It occurs as an intervocalic allophone of /ʟ̝̊/ in Nii and perhaps some related Wahgi languages of New Guinea.
The IPA has no dedicated symbol for this sound, but it can be transcribed as a raised velar lateral approximant, ⟨ʟ̝⟩.Voiceless retroflex lateral affricate
The voiceless retroflex lateral affricate is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet is ⟨ʈ͜ɭ̊˔⟩.Voiceless retroflex lateral approximant
The voiceless retroflex lateral approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɭ̊⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is l`_0.
It is found as a phoneme distinct from its voiced counterpart /ɭ/ in Iaai and Toda. In both of these languages it also contrasts with more anterior /l̥, l/, which are dental in Iaai and alveolar in Toda.Voiceless retroflex lateral fricative
The voiceless retroflex lateral fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The IPA has no symbol for this sound. However, the "belt" of the voiceless lateral fricative is combined with the tail of the retroflex consonants to create the symbol ⟨ꞎ ⟩:
In 2008, the Unicode Technical Committee accepted the letter as U+A78E ꞎ LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH RETROFLEX HOOK AND BELT (HTML ꞎ), included in Unicode 6.0.