I’m currently spending my quarantine working on the language for my novel. The language is alien-like, so I wanted to make it extremely difficult in it’s phonology. There are several trills. The trilled L, the trilled Th, and the trilled Q. I started making an IPA chart to show my aunt, a linguist, in order to get her feedback and criticism. But, after searching through many many articles and IPA sounds, I couldn’t find anything similar to the trilled l and the trilled th. I called my aunt, seeing if maybe she had heard them before. She was shocked to hear me pronounce them and she couldn’t do it herself. Does anyone know of any languages that have these sounds? The trilled l is just an l, but trilled, there’s nothing fancy or foreign going on. Same thing for the th, it’s just a th (like “that” in English or “ddraig” in Welsh) but trilled. Q may be a little harder, as it’s a guttural sound but still trilled (somewhat like the breathy r in some French accents but still not similar enough to be written the same). Is anyone else able to replicate these sounds or at least can refer me to languages that use these sounds?

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    Can you describe the trills still more precise by stating what body part actually trills? Is it the tip of the tongue, can you make the blade of your tongue vibrate, or some other part? Apr 15, 2020 at 9:21
  • "Trilled L" is impossible, whatever sound you pronounce and call it a "trilled L" is actually something different, it can be anything, but surely not "trilled L". The point is, "trill, trilled" is a linguistic term which means quite a specific manner of production of noise. Other kinds of the manner of production of noise are: plosive, nasal, fricative, affricate, tap or flap, lateral fricative, approximant, and lateral approximant. Note, each consonant sound can be produced with just one manner of production of noise, there cannot be *plosive fricatives, or *nasal trills.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 15, 2020 at 10:06
  • A consonant sound can be either a plosive or a fricative, either a nasal or a trill. In the same way, there cannot be any *trilled lateral approximants. The L sound, [l] is a lateral approximant as for its manner of production of noise, the slot is occupied, it cannot have one more feature in it. The most probable cause you think you can pronounce "trilled L" is that you actually pronounce [ɮ], a voiced alveolar~dental lateral fricative, and you think it's "trilled L". Listen to [ɮ] here. Is it it?
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 15, 2020 at 10:11
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    @YellowSky Or even better, a triply articulated bilabial-alveolar-uvular trill, [ʙ͡rʀ] (yeah, I don’t know how to type that on my phone) – nasalised if you want a real challenge. Alveolar-uvular alone is very easy to me, but the triple one is difficult to pronounce quickly and easily enough to use as a regular phoneme without it becoming over-articulated and too long. Apr 15, 2020 at 16:37
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    @Quapaddraig That sound bite sounds to me like a (velarised?) l pronounced with a simultaneous uvular trill, basically [l͡ʀ] (or [ɫ͡ʀ]?). If you put your fingers tightly on your Adam’s apple when producing a French r and then when producing this sound, can you feel the same vibration? Can you feel your uvula vibrating against the very back of your tongue? Apr 15, 2020 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


Regardless of the fact that you've described physical impossibilities, if you can do them, that suggests you mis-analyzed the sounds. There are very many strange sounds in human languages. The first step to doing something with these sounds is to actually capture them, meaning, make some decent recordings (preferable in the context [a__a]). Those sample can be analyzed subjectively by qualified others who have experience in auditory analysis (perhaps your aunt), and acoustically by anyone who knows how to do acoustic analysis (e.g. using Praat). It may not be possible to recover the physiological events from the recordings (it may require somewhat invasive techniques), but acoustic and auditory analysis is the starting point.

I am tempted to call the L example a "buccal trill". This may be what Lovecraft was uttering when he pronounced the name Cthulhu (there don't seem to be any authoritative recordings). The test is, when you produce it, do your cheeks rapidly bounce in and out (presumably on one side)? I agree that it is a trill, which implies a narrow constriction and an alternating cycle of pressure buildup and release as the active articulator is blown aside (reducing pressure, causing the articulator to make contact again, leading to pressure buildup, and so on).


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