Wednesday, 8 September 2010
A linguolabial is a consonant articulated by the tip or blade of the tongue against the upper lip.
Linguolabials are found in the consonant inventories of very few languages. Ladefoged and Maddieson, in their book The Sounds of the World’s Languages (Blackwell, 1996), give some examples from Tangoa, a language spoken on an island belonging to Vanuatu, in which linguolabials contrast with both bilabials and alveolars for plosives, nasals and fricatives, e.g. t̼et̼e ‘butterfly’.
So much for linguolabials realizing separate phonemes. A different matter is the style-governed articulation of alveolars or dentals as linguolabial, something occasionally encountered in English. People on the VASTA discussion list have recently been discussing the articulatory habits of Britney Spears, the singer, who sometimes does precisely this with the English consonants l, θ and ð. I suppose she thinks it’s sexy. See this video clip.
Apparently Britney lip-syncs all her songs.