Journal of the International Phonetic Association

Research Article

The phonetic status of the (inter)dental approximant

Kenneth S. Olsona1, Jeff Mielkea2, Josephine Sanicas-Dagumana3, Carol Jean Pebleya4 and Hugh J. Paterson IIIa5

a1 SIL International & University of North Dakota

a2 University of Ottawa

a3 Translators Association of the Philippines

a4 SIL International

a5 SIL International & University of North Dakota


The (inter)dental approximant is a little-studied speech sound in the Philippines and Western Australia. In this paper, we document the articulation of the sound, providing acoustic and video data from Kagayanen and Limos Kalinga, respectively. The sound is attested in at least fifteen languages. It is contrastive in five Western Australian languages, while in the Philippines it generally patterns as an allophone of /l/ but has emerged recently as a separate phoneme due to contact. It arose independently in the two regions. The sound is easily describable in terms of values of phonological features or phonetic parameters. All of these factors argue for the inclusion of the sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet.