Retroflex lateral flap

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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⟩.


Features of the retroflex flap:

  • Its manner of articulation is 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 [kēɭ̆ī] 'to ask' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Kobon [example needed] Subapical. Written ⟨ƚ⟩.
Kresh[1] [example needed]
Malayalam വേളി [vēɭ̆ī] 'marriage' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Marathi केळी [keɭ̆ī] 'bananas' See Marathi phonology
Miyakoan Some dialects[2] [example needed]
Odia ସକାଳ [sɔkaɭ̆ɔ] 'morning' Can be an approximant [ɭ] instead.
Pashto[3][4] ړوند [ɭ̆und] 'blind' Contrasts plain and nasalized flaps.[3][4]
Tamil மழை [məɭ̆əi] 'rain' Allophone of /ɭ/. See Tamil phonology
Totoli[5] [example needed] Allophone of /ɺ/ after back vowels.[5]
Tukang Besi[6] [example needed] Possible allophone of /l/ after back vowels, as well as an allophone of /r/.[6]
Wayuu[7] [example needed]

A retroflex lateral flap has been reported from various languages of Sulawesi such as the Sangiric languages.[8]

Other languages reported to have a retroflex lateral flap, either phonemically or phonetically, are Konkani, Marathi, Odia, and Rajasthani[9] 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/.[10]


  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 D.N. MacKenzie, 1990, "Pashto", in Bernard Comrie, ed, The major languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, p. 103
  4. ^ a b Herbert Penzl, 1965, A reader of Pashto, p 7
  5. ^ a b Nikolaus Himmelmann, 2001, Sourcebook on Tomini-Tolitoli languages, The Australian National University
  6. ^ a b Donohue, Mark (1999), "Tukang Besi", Handbook of the International Phonetic Association, Cambridge University Press, p. 152, ISBN 0-521-63751-1 
  7. ^ Randall Huber & Robert Reed, 1990, Vocabulario comparativo: palabras selectas de lenguas indígenas de Colombia, p 391
  8. ^ J. N. Sneddon, 1984, Proto-Sangiric & the Sangiric languages pp 20, 23
  9. ^ *Masica, Colin (1991), The Indo-Aryan Languages, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-29944-2 
  10. ^ Colin Masica, The Indo-Aryan Languages, CUP, 1991