Lateral Approximant Consonant Sound

– The English sound /l/ has two common variations in GB English:

Clear ‘l’ (/l/ before a vowel): law, leaf, holler, melon
Dark ‘l’ (/l/ at the end or before a consonant): all, feel, holding, mel



What is a lateral approximant?

  • Lateral approximants are made by releasing air down the sides of the tongue.
  • In both /l/ sounds, the tongue tip touches the alveolar ridge and the air escapes down the sides.
  • Dark /l/ also involves raising the back of the tongue towards the velum.
  • /l/ is clear before a vowel sound & the consonant /j/.
  • In all other positions /l/ is dark, which is transcribed phonetically as [ɫ].


Clear /l/:

lots, lean, lorry, lift, lob, allow, least, low, laugh, Ealing, listen, letting, alloy, flow, slide, clip, play

Dark [ɫ]:

old, sold, kneel, hall, elbow, told, foals, mole, mould, hospital, teal, peel, reel, all, tall, fall, cold, fold

Repeat the following:

Clear /l/:

A. Lily loves playing lacrosse with Larry

B. Letting agents are not allowed in Ealing
C. Lob at least eleven lemons in the lemon cake, Lucy!

Dark [ɫ]:

D. Can Paul call tall Phil on his mobile?

E. The soles of these heels have gone all mouldy!
F. Kneel down on the old pale carpet in the hospital’s hall.

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