Lateral release
IPA Number426
Entity (decimal)ˡ
Unicode (hex)U+02E1

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 Old English words such as middle/middel in which, historically, the tongue made separate contacts with the alveolar ridge for the /d/ and /l/,[citation needed] [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,[1] 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.

See also


  1. ^ Ladefoged, Peter and Ian Maddieson. The Sounds of the World's Languages. Wiley-Blackwell, 1996.