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Subject: Lateral Lisp sound in African languages?
Question: I've listened to a good amount of African (largely South African) music in the last few years, and it sounds to me that in one or more languages (perhaps Zulu, for one) there is actually a sound that sounds like a lateral lisp. I've noticed this with several different artists (e.g. both Zola and Ladysmith Black Mambazo), and they all are able to pronounce ''s'' sounds properly, which suggests to me that it's not a speech impediment but an actual part of the language's phonology. I've searched around online, but I haven't been able to find any reference to this! Am I imagining things? What is this sound that I'm hearing? Thanks!
Reply: Zulu does indeed have a lateral fricative, spelled , which you make by putting your tongue where it would be to make the 'l' in 'least', holding it there, and blowing air out. It's the sound that's spelled in Welsh (and they also have them in Tibetan and Navajo, among other languages; it's not all that common, but not hugely rare, either). Zulu also has a voiced version, spelled
--made the same way, except that as you blow the air out you should be trying to 'hum', getting your vocal cords to vibrate. Googling 'Zulu lateral fricative' might help you find more information about it.
Reply From: Norvin Richards      click here to access email
Date: 06-Dec-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Lateral Lisp sound in African languages?    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (06-Dec-2013)
  2. Re: Lateral Lisp sound in African languages?    James L Fidelholtz     (07-Dec-2013)

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