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.

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]

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⟩.

The sound is conjectured as a phoneme for Proto-Semitic language, usually transcribed as ś; it has evolved into Arabic [ʃ], Hebrew [s]:

Amongst Semitic languages, the sound still exists in contemporary Soqotri[citation needed] and Mehri.[27] In Ge'ez, it is written with the letter Śawt.[citation needed]

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.[28][29]