Approximants are speech sounds which are pronounced with a stricture of open approximation. This means that the active articulator approaches the passive articulator but there remains a wide gap between both so that the airflow does not cause an audible hiss. Approximants can have a central or a lateral airflow. In central approximants, the air flows along a central path over the tongue. In lateral approximants the tongue touches the roof of the mouth in the central area and the air flows around this obstacle so that the airflow is lateral.

 

The IPA distinguishes 5 symbols for the central approximants at the following places of articulation: labio-dental, alveolar, retroflex, palatal and velar. In addition, it provides 4 symbols for lateral approximants: alveolar, retroflex, palatal and velar. Additional symbols for the central approximants can be derived from the fricative symbol at the corresponding place of articulation by adding a diacritic denoting a more open degree of approximation: this can be seen above for e.g. the lingo-labial and dental approximants.

Approximants are typically voiced, but voiceless approximants do occur. Laai reportedly has several voiceless approximants which contrast phonemically with voiced approximants. Approximants can also be

Voiced
LABIAL VELAR
APPROXIMANT
Voiced
PALATAL
APPROXIMANT
Voiced
ALVEOLAR
LATERAL APPROXIMANT
LABIAL •
Central
Central
LINGUO-LABIAL •
Lateral
• LINGUO-LABIAL
Approximant
LABIO-DENTAL •
DENTAL •
• DENTAL
ALVEOLAR •
• ALVEOLAR
PALATAL •
• PALATAL
Central
VELAR •
Approximant

Symbols for the phonetic transcription of approximants

Approximant
Approximant
Central
Approximant
Central
Approximant
Approximant
Lateral
Central
Approximant
Lateral
Approximant
Central
RETROFLEX •
Approximant
• RETROFLEX
Approximant
Lateral
Central
Approximant
Approximant
Lateral
Lateral
VELAR •
Approximant
CENTRAL •
• CENTRAL
LATERAL •
• LATERAL
LINGUO LABIAL
DENTAL
RETROFLEX
VELAR
LABIAL
LABIO DENTAL
ALVEOLAR
PALATAL
UVULAR
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nutshell phonetics of approximants

 

© 2020 by phonetics.expert