In many languages, including Irish and Russian, velarized consonants contrast phonemically with palatalized consonants. The palatalized/velarized contrast is known by other names, especially in language pedagogy: in Irish language teaching, the terms slender (for palatalized) and broad (for velarized) are often used, while in Russian language teaching, the terms soft (for palatalized) and hard (for velarized) are usual. The terms light (for palatalized) and dark (for velarized) are also widespread.
In some accents of English, such as Received Pronunciation, the phoneme /l/ has "dark" and "light" allophones: the "dark" allophone appears in syllable coda position (e.g. in wall), while the "light" allophone ("light" meaning "non-velarized" rather than "palatalized" here) appears in syllable onset position (e.g. in lawn). Other accents of English, such as Scottish English and Australian English, have "dark L" in all positions, while Hiberno-English has "clear L" in all positions.
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, velarization can be indicated by one of two methods:
- printing a tilde or swung dash through the letter indicates either velarization or pharyngealization, as in [ɫ] (the velarized equivalent of [l], or
- printing the symbol [ˠ] (a superscript gamma) after the letter standing for the velarized consonant, as in [tˠ] (the velarized equivalent of [t]).
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