I've been helping someone trying to create a conlang, and they are insistent that they want seven sonorant approximants. After a bit of desperation, I settled on wa, "vfwa" (which I can't give a good English example of), la, ra, j/ya, and r as in Paris, the way it's pronounced in French. Basically: w, ʋ, l, ɹ, j, and ɰ. I used the alveolar lateral approximate out of desperation, since the other ones sound too similar to their non-lateral counterparts (to me). A dental approximant would feel convenient (since my friend said he didn't like anything uvular, couldn't pronounce pharyngeal, and already used everything glottal we knew of). When I looked up "voiced dental fricative" the results showed ð̞ is what I was looking for. However, there's already a ð sound in the lang, and it sounds identical, to the point of wikipedia using the exact same sound file for both examples. So is there a dental approximant? And if not, what could replace that?

  • Spanish is supposed to have [ð̞] as a possible realization of /d/, I think. But it does not contrast with /ð/. In any case, /ð/ is already a rare sound, so it seems unlikely to me that a language would have both /ð/ and /ð̞/ as contrastive phonemes. In general, it seems to me that contrasts between approximants and fricatives at the exact same POA are unusual. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_phonology#Consonants – brass tacks Sep 11 '15 at 6:19
  • By the way, French "r" is actually uvular, in general. The "vfwa" sound may be a labiodental approximant (I see you transcribed it that way): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labiodental_approximant – brass tacks Sep 11 '15 at 6:22
  • How about a lamino-dental glide? They're found in a couple of Australian languages, Bunuba and Yindjibarndi. – Gaston Ümlaut Sep 11 '15 at 8:47
  • What are these sounds contrasting with? In particular, how do sibilants fit into your system? If it hasn't been used up, a voiced hushed sibilant--perhaps an apical--might contrast adequately with /z/ and /ð/ and could be felt to fall into an 'approximant' series. – StoneyB on hiatus Sep 11 '15 at 10:52
  • Why not /ʎ/ or /ɥ/? I don't know how well they'd fit in with the rest of the phonology, but it's certainly better than contrasting dental approximant with voiced dental fricative, which afaik is unheard of. – user54748 Sep 11 '15 at 17:35

There is, but getting the hang of it and transcribing it isn't easy. It exists in the Kurdish language Hawrami, in the Bantu language Kamba, in another Bantu language Logoori (described by Elizabeth Leung in a Cornell MA thesis), and in Danish, as the lenited voiced lingual stop. In Kamba and Logoori it is basically the way that /j/ is pronounced; it doesn't ever minimally contrast with both [ð] and [j]. You might check the UCLA phonetic archives for examples of Danish "[ð]", or find a Danish speaker.

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