Is a sound change from /l/ or /r/ to a voiced dental fricative attested in any languages?

(Furthermore is there some database for searching sound changes?)

  • 3
    it's not a scholarly database, but Index Diachronica is a tool for checking this sort of thing developed for conlangers. It does come with some caveats though as it's drawn from sources that don't always use standard transcriptions, so things may not always appear as IPA, and also that in some instances it may accept certain hypotheses that are more uncertain than communis opinio: chridd.nfshost.com/diachronica
    – Tristan
    Feb 27 at 11:20
  • 3
    a quick look there shows L Lʲ → {ð,j} ʒ / _”V for Proto-Siouan to Proto-Dhegiha; L → θ / _”V and Lʲ → {θ,n} / _V[+nas -stress] and Lʲ → ð / _V[+nas -stress] and pr sr tʲr kr → bð sts ʃd ɡð and r → ð / x_ for Proto-Dhegiha to Omaha-Ponca; l → {r,ð} for Proto-Algonquian to Woods Cree; and kl → ð and {r,r̥} → ð for North Tai to Dioi
    – Tristan
    Feb 27 at 11:26
  • Not a sound change, but the so-called ‘soft d’ in Danish – phonemically /ð/, phonetically something like [ð̠˕ˠ] – is often perceived as [l] by non-Danes, much to the confusion of Danes who can see no acoustic similarity at all. Feb 27 at 16:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet it's even less relevant here, but that sort of contrary perception is seen between Mandarin "r" /ʐ/ which is perceived by English-speakers as the same as /ɹ/, which Mandarin speakers then perceive as the same as their /l/ (which is perceived by English-speakers as /l/)
    – Tristan
    Feb 27 at 17:36
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet ah, I must have misunderstood the stuff I was reading as being based on Mandarin-speakers' perceptions rather than them porting Cantonese perceptions
    – Tristan
    Feb 28 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


One of the most famous cases is Polish, where old [r] first got palatalized before the front vowels into [rʲ] and then lost the palatalization and changed its quality to [ʐ], graphically <rz>, e.g. Proto-Slavic *rěčь > Polish rzecz [ʐɛt͡ʂ] “thing, matter, action, deed”, one of the most often used Polish words, as in Rzeczpospolita [ʐɛt͡ʂ.pɔˈspɔ.li.ta] “(formal) Poland (the Polish state)”, from rzecz (“thing”) +‎ pospolita (“common”), calque of Latin rēspūblica (“public affair”).

See “Loss of palatalization in certain environments” section of this Wikipedia article (History of Polish language > Phonetic processes from Proto-Slavic).


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