In the IPA chart, there's no labiodental lateral approximant. The cell isn't even left blank, it's shaded out and therefore the articulation is judged impossible.

One of the explanations is (see, e.g., https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/28880/20824) that the central – lateral dichotomy is only applicable to tongue gestures. But why? It's pretty possible to produce a labiodental (central) closure so that the airstream flows out over the sides without any turbulent noise. In fact, it's considered to be the main allophone of Russian /v/, /vʲ/ in the initial position in fast speech (e.g., see Современный русский литературный язык (Modern Standard Russian) by S.V. Knjazev and S.K. Pozharitskaya).

Moreover, I looked up lateral vs. central in J. Laver's 'Principle of Phonetics' and couldn't find any 'tongue restriction' on the usage of this term. (Where does it come from?)

So why is that cell shaded out?

  • May I edit your title? With 17 views a day you'll never get an answer! :) [If you don't like the edit, of course, you can just roll it back/reject it!] Commented Feb 7, 2021 at 23:53
  • @Araucaria-Nothereanymore. do it, please! :)
    – Aer
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 8:03
  • 1
    I've wondered the same thing before. Iirc the ipa officially define lateral as requiring air flow to be separated by the tongue, largely motivated by the fact no language is known to distinguish labials based on whether they are lateral or central
    – Tristan
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 10:35
  • @Tristan yep, I've expected that point, but where's this tongue restriction mentioned? Nothing of that kind can be found in the official handbook, can it?
    – Aer
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 11:29
  • unfortunately I don't have the handbook myself, so I'm inferring from secondary sources
    – Tristan
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 11:55


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