Retroflex lateral flap

Retroflex lateral flap

The retroflex lateral flap is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It has no dedicated symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but may be represented as ⟨ɭ̆⟩ or with a dot diacritic as ⟨ɺ̣⟩.


Features of the retroflex flap:

  • Its manner of articulation is tap or flap, which means it is produced with a single contraction of the muscles so that one articulator (usually the tongue) is thrown against another.
  • Its place of articulation is retroflex, which prototypically means it is articulated subapical (with the tip of the tongue curled up), but more generally, it means that it is postalveolar without being palatalized. That is, besides the prototypical subapical articulation, the tongue contact can be apical (pointed) or laminal (flat).
  • Its phonation is voiced, which means the vocal cords vibrate during the articulation.
  • It is an oral consonant, which means air is allowed to escape through the mouth only.
  • It is a lateral consonant, which means it is produced by directing the airstream over the sides of the tongue, rather than down the middle.
  • The airstream mechanism is pulmonic, which means it is articulated by pushing air solely with the lungs and diaphragm, as in most sounds.


Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Iwaidja [ŋaɭ̆uli] 'my foot'
Kannada ಕೇಳಿ [keːɭ̆iː] 'to ask' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Kobon [example needed] Subapical. Written ⟨ƚ⟩.
Kresh[1] [example needed]
Malayalam വേളി [veːɭ̆iː] 'marriage' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Marathi केळी [keɭ̆iː] 'bananas' See Marathi phonology
Miyakoan Some dialects[2] [example needed]
Norwegian Trøndersk[3] glas [ˈɡɺ̠ɑːs] 'glass' Apical postalveolar;[3] also described as central [ɽ].[4] See Norwegian phonology
O'odham[5] [example needed] Apical postalveolar.[5]
Odia ସକାଳ [sɔkaɭ̆ɔ] 'morning' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Pashto[6][7] ړوند [ɭ̆und] 'blind' Contrasts plain and nasalized flaps.[6][7] Tend to be lateral at the beginning of a prosodic unit, and a central flap [ɽ] or approximant [ɻ] elsewhere.
Tamil குளி [ˈkuɭ̆i] 'bathe' Allophone of /ɭ/. See Tamil phonology
Totoli[8] [example needed] Allophone of /ɺ/ after back vowels.[8]
Tukang Besi[9] [example needed] Possible allophone of /l/ after back vowels, as well as an allophone of /r/.[9]
Wayuu[10] [example needed]

A retroflex lateral flap has been reported from various languages of Sulawesi such as the Sangiric languages, Buol and Totoli,[11] as well as Nambikwara in Brazil (plain and laryngealized), Gaagudju in Australia, Purépecha in Mexico, Moro in Sudan, O'odham and Mohawk in the United States, Chaga in Tanzania, and Kanuri in Nigeria.

Various Dravidian and Indic languages of India are reported to have a retroflex lateral flap, either phonemically or phonetically, including Gujarati, Konkani, Marathi, Odia, and Rajasthani.[12] Masica describes the sound as widespread in the Indic languages of India:

A retroflex flapped lateral /ḷ/, contrasting with ordinary /l/, is a prominent feature of Odia, Marathi–Konkani, Gujarati, most varieties of Rajasthani and Bhili, Punjabi, some dialects of "Lahnda", ... most dialects of West Pahari, and Kumauni (not in the Southeastern dialect described by Apte and Pattanayak), as well as Hariyanvi and the Saharanpur subdialect of Northwestern Kauravi ("Vernacular Hindustani") investigated by Gumperz. It is absent from most other NIA languages, including most Hindi dialects, Nepali, Garhwali, Bengali, Assamese, Kashmiri and other Dardic languages (except for the Dras dialect of Shina and possibly Khowar), the westernmost West Pahari dialects bordering Dardic (Bhalesi, Khashali, Rudhari, Padari) as well as the easternmost (Jaunsari, Sirmauri), and from Sindhi, Kacchi, and Siraiki. It was once present in Sinhalese, but in the modern language has merged with /l/.[13]


  1. ^ D. Richard Brown, 1994, "Kresh", in Kahrel & van den Berg, eds, Typological studies in negation, p 163
  2. ^ Aleksandra Jarosz, 2014, "Miyako-Ryukyuan and its contribution to linguistic diversity", JournaLIPP 3
  3. ^ a b Grønnum, Nina (2005), Fonetik og fonologi, Almen og Dansk (3rd ed.), Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, p. 155, ISBN 87-500-3865-6
  4. ^ Heide, Eldar (2010), "Tjukk l – Retroflektert tydeleggjering av kort kvantitet. Om kvalitetskløyvinga av det gamle kvantitetssystemet.", Maal og minne, Novus forlag, 1 (2010): 3–44
  5. ^ a b Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-631-19815-4.
  6. ^ a b D.N. MacKenzie, 1990, "Pashto", in Bernard Comrie, ed, The major languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, p. 103
  7. ^ a b Herbert Penzl, 1965, A reader of Pashto, p 7
  8. ^ a b Nikolaus Himmelmann, 2001, Sourcebook on Tomini-Tolitoli languages, The Australian National University
  9. ^ a b Donohue, Mark (1999), "Tukang Besi", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, p. 152, ISBN 0-521-63751-1
  10. ^ Randall Huber & Robert Reed, 1990, Vocabulario comparativo: palabras selectas de lenguas indígenas de Colombia, p 391
  11. ^ J. N. Sneddon, 1984, Proto-Sangiric & the Sangiric languages pp 20, 23
  12. ^ *Masica, Colin (1991), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29944-2
  13. ^ Colin Masica, The Indo-Aryan Languages, CUP, 1991

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