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Retroflex lateral flap

Retroflex lateral flap
(= ɺ̢ )
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The retroflex lateral flap is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. It has no symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but the diacritic forms ɭ̆  and ɺ˞  are sometimes seen, and a dedicated ad hoc symbol (= ɺ̢ ) may be easily created (see below).


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 sub-apical 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.


A retroflex lateral flap has been reported from Pashto (which even has a phonemic nasalized retroflexed lateral flap),[1][2] Kresh,[3] Wayuu (Goajiro),[4] various languages of Sulawesi such as the Sangiric languages[5] and Tolitoli (as an allophone of /ɺ/ after back vowels),[6]

Language Word IPA Meaning Notes
Iwaidja [ŋaɺ̢uli] 'my foot'
Pashto ړوند ɺ̢und] 'blind' See Pashto phonology
Tamil [example needed] Allophone of /ɭ/. See Tamil phonology
Kobon [example needed] Written ƚ. Subapical
Marathi केळी [keɺ̢ī] 'bananas' See Marathi phonology

Other languages reported to have a retroflex lateral flap, either phonemically or phonetically, are Nambikwara in Brazil (plain and laryngealized), Buol and Totoli of Sulawesi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Marathi and various Dravidian languages (among others) of India, Gaagudju in Australia, Purépecha in Mexico, Moro in Sudan, O'odham and Mohawk in the United States, Chaga in Tanzania, and Kanuri in Nigeria.

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 Oriya, 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/.[7]


There is no official symbol for the retroflex lateral flap. However, an ad hoc symbol may be created by combining the symbol for the alveolar lateral flap with the tail of the retroflex consonants,

File:Lateral flaps.png
Alveolar and retroflex lateral flaps.

This is not supported by Unicode, and so for normal typography requires the use of a diacritic, ɺ̢. However, SIL International has added this symbol to the Private Use Areas of their Gentium Plus, Charis, and Doulos fonts, as U+F269 ().


  1. ^ D.N. MacKenzie, 1990, "Pashto", in Bernard Comrie, ed, The major languages of South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, p. 103
  2. ^ Herbert Penzl, 1965, A reader of Pashto, p 7
  3. ^ D. Richard Brown, 1994, "Kresh", in Kahrel & van den Berg, eds, Typological studies in negation, p 163
  4. ^ Randall Huber & Robert Reed, 1990, Vocabulario comparativo: palabras selectas de lenguas indígenas de Colombia, p 391
  5. ^ J. N. Sneddon, 1984, Proto-Sangiric & the Sangiric languages pp 20, 23
  6. ^ Nikolaus Himmelmann, 2001, Sourcebook on Tomini-Tolitoli languages, The Australian National University
  7. ^ Colin Masica, The Indo-Aryan Languages, CUP, 1991