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In
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. The field of phon ...

phonetics
, liquids are a class of
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
s consisting of voiced lateral approximants like together with rhotics like .


Etymology

The grammarian
Dionysius Thrax Dionysius Thrax ( grc-gre, Διονύσιος ὁ Θρᾷξ ''Dionysios o Thrax'', 170–90 BC) was a Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, ...
used the Greek word ὑγρός (''hygrós'', "moist") to describe the
sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
consonants () of
classical Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of languages, nati ...
. Most commentators assume that this referred to their "slippery" effect on
meter The metre ( Commonwealth spelling) or meter ( American spelling; see spelling differences) (from the French unit , from the Greek noun , "measure", and cognate with Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, no ...
in classical Greek verse when they occur as the second member of a consonant cluster. This word was
calque In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...

calque
d into
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

Latin
as , whence it has been retained in the Western European phonetic tradition.


Phonological properties

Liquids as a class often behave in a similar way in the
phonotactics Phonotactics (from Ancient Greek "voice, sound" and "having to do with arranging") is a branch of phonology that deals with restrictions in a language on the permissible combinations of phonemes. Phonotactics defines permissible syllable structu ...
of a language: for example, they often have the greatest freedom in occurring in
consonant cluster In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the metho ...
s.


Metathesis

Liquids are the consonants most prone to metathesis: * Lat. > Span. “crocodile” * Lat. > Span. “miracle” * Lat. > Span. “danger” * Lat. > Span. “speech”


Dissimilation

Liquids are also prone to dissimilation when they occur in sequence.


Sequence r..r > l..r

* Latin '''' >
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
'' pelegrin'' (> )


Sequence l..l > r..l

* Italian '''' >
Middle French Middle French (french: moyen français) is a historical division of the French language French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured ...
'' coronnel'' This example of a relatively old case of phonetic dissimilation has been artificially undone in the spelling of English ''
colonel Colonel (; abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer rank used in many countries. It is also used in some police forces and paramilitary organizations. Historically, in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, a colonel was typica ...
'', whose standard pronunciation is (with the r sound) in North-American English, or in RP. It was formerly spelt ''coronel'' and is a borrowing from Middle French ''coronnel'', which arose as a result of dissimilation from Italian ''colonnello''.


Nucleus slot

Liquids are also the consonants most prone to occupying the nucleus slot in a syllable (the slot usually assigned to vowels). Thus
Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name Czechia and formerly known as Bohemia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A countr ...
and other Slavic languages allow their liquid consonants and to be the center of their syllables – as witnessed by the classic tonguetwister "push (your) finger through (your) throat".


Areal distribution

Languages differ in the number and nature of their liquid consonants. Many languages, such as
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperial Seal of J ...

Japanese
,
Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Korean dialects and the Jeju language **S ...
, or
Polynesian languages The Polynesian languages form a genealogical group of languages, itself part of the Oceanic Oceanic may refer to: *Of or relating to the ocean *Of or relating to Oceania **Oceanic climate **Oceanic languages **Oceanic person or people, also cal ...

Polynesian languages
(see below), have a single liquid phoneme that has both lateral and rhotic
allophone In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particu ...
s.
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
has two liquid phonemes, one lateral, and one rhotic, , exemplified in the words ''led'' and ''red''. Many other European languages have one lateral and one rhotic phoneme. Some, such as
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
,
Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Regional Italian, regional variants of the ...

Italian
and
Serbo-Croatian Serbo-Croatian () – also called Serbo-Croat (), Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (SCB), Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian (BCS), and Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian (BCMS) – is a South Slavic language The South Slavic languages are one of three branches ...
, have more than two liquid phonemes. All three languages have the set , with two laterals and one rhotic. Similarly, the
Iberian languages Iberian languages is a generic term for the languages currently or formerly spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. Historic languages Pre-Roman languages The following languages were spoken in the Iberian Peninsula before the Roman occupation an ...
contrast four liquid phonemes. , , , and a fourth phoneme that is an
alveolar trill The voiced alveolar trill is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the f ...
in all but some varieties of
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
, where it is a
uvular Uvulars are consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pronounc ...
trill or fricative (also, the majority of Spanish speakers lack and use the central instead). Some European languages, for example
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
and
Irish Irish most commonly refers to: * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland, an island situated off the north-western coast of continental Europe ** Northern Ireland, a constituent unit of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North ...
, contrast a palatalized lateral–rhotic pair with an unpalatalized (or
velarized Velarization is a secondary articulation of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced wit ...
) set (e.g. in Russian). Elsewhere in the world, two liquids of the types mentioned above remains the most common attribute of a language's consonant inventory except in North America and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...
. In North America, a majority of languages do not have rhotics at all and there is a wide variety of lateral sounds though most are
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
laterals rather than liquids. Most indigenous Australian languages are very rich in liquids, with some having as many as seven distinct liquids. They typically include dental, alveolar, retroflex and palatal laterals, and as many as three rhotics. On the other side, there are many indigenous languages in the
Amazon Basin The Amazon Basin is the part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern of a single continent called (see the ). Th ...
and eastern North America, as well as a few in Asia and Africa, with no liquids.
Polynesian languages The Polynesian languages form a genealogical group of languages, itself part of the Oceanic Oceanic may refer to: *Of or relating to the ocean *Of or relating to Oceania **Oceanic climate **Oceanic languages **Oceanic person or people, also cal ...

Polynesian languages
typically have only one liquid, which may be either a lateral or a rhotic. Non-Polynesian
Oceanic languages The approximately 450 Oceanic languages are a branch of the Austronesian languages The Austronesian languages () are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), ...

Oceanic languages
usually have both and , occasionally more (e.g. Araki has , , ) or less (e.g. Mwotlap has only ). Hiw is unusual in having a prestopped velar lateral as its only liquid..


See also

*
Sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
*
List of phonetics topics A * Acoustic phonetics Acoustic phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians— ...
*
Perception of English /r/ and /l/ by Japanese speakers Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , image_coat = Imperia ...
*
Engrish Engrish is a slang term for the misuse or corruption of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become ...


References

{{Authority control Phonetics Phonology