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The lateral liquid /l/

/l/ is an alveolar sonorant consonant. A feature specifications might be +sonorant, +coronal, +anterior, +voice, +lateral. Together with /r/ it forms the group of liquids.

[+] Phonotactic behaviour

/l/ can occur as singleton onset (1)(a) and as second consonant, following either initial noncoronals /k/, /p/ or /b/, as in (1)(b). In (1)(c) /l/ is preceeded by voiceless fricatives i.e. /s/, /f/ or /x/.

Example 1

a. lamp lamp
b. klant client  ; ploeg plow  ; bly stay
c. slaan hit  ; vlag flag  ; glad smooth

/l/ can occur in simple codas, as in (2)(a), as well as in complex codas, such as in (2)(b) and (2)(c). In the former case /l/ may be followed by voiceless fricatives /s/, /f/ and /x/, and in the latter instance by plosives /p/, /d/ (phonetically realised as [t)], and /k/. In (2)(d) /lm/is phonetically realised as [ləm], due to schwa-insertion in sonorant clusters.

Note that onset and coda clusters are mirror images of each other, except that an onset member /*tl-/ does not exist as equivalent for /-lt/

Example 2

a. bel bell
b. hals neck half half walg disgust
c. help help  ; held hero kelk chalice
d. kalm calm

/l/ often appears intervocalically, as in (3):

Example 3

a. palet palette
b. balie tub  ; ballet ballet veilig safe
[+] Articulatory information

Afrikaans /l/ is a lateralliquidconsonant; its primary place of articulation is alveolar. Laterals are produced with both sides of the tongue lowered, and alveolars are produced at the alveolar place of articulation, i.e. by a constriction between the corona of the tongue and the alveolar ridge.

Figure 1: The human speech organs

[click image to enlarge]

Afrikaans /l/ is a typical lateral, which in general is characterised by a high F3 (around 3000 Hz), which is, in turn, far apart from the F2 (around 1000 Hz, Stevens 1998).

In the example below, the most important acoustic properties of /l/are shown. For purposes of comparison, the other member of the liquid group, /r/ in /rararar/ is included.

Table 1
Sound Sound waves and spectrogram
[click image to enlarge]

  1. More energy than in /l/ is spread over a spectrum ranging from 4kHz up to 10kHz.
  2. Two spectral valleys is visible, the lowest around 5000 Hz, the highest about 8000 Hz.

  • Stevens, K. N1998Acoustic phoneticsCambridge MAMIT Press
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