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Sociophonetics and laterals

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Publication date31/10/2023
Host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Sociophonetics
EditorsChristopher Strelluf
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages23
ISBN (electronic)9781003034636
ISBN (print)9780367472795
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Laterals are the L-like sounds of the world’s languages, notable for displaying both consonant- like and vowel-like properties. From the Latin `lateralis' (literally ‘belonging to the side’), laterals have closure at a point in the center of the oral tract (like a consonant) as well as the continuation of airflow down one or both sides of the tongue (like a vowel). In English, there is one phonemic lateral, the alveolar lateral approximant /l/, for example, in words like laugh, fall. Laterals have been subject to a large amount of study in sociolinguistics, phonetics, and phonology, likely due to their contextual and social variability, as well as their tendency to exhibit change over time.
This chapter summarizes existing literature on /l/ with a focus on sociophonetic research, along- side an overview of the phonetic methods used to examine variation. Whilst the focus is on English, which is the language most sociophonetic research on laterals investigates, a cross-linguistic sum- mary is also provided. In addition, the chapter presents novel results on the sociophonetics of / l/ in a case study of Lancashire English, demonstrating some of the methods that can be used as avenues to investigate variation and change.