Approximant (definition)

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Approximants are sounds are made with a partial closure of the articulators in the vocal tract. The term is used to describe liquids like [l, ɹ] and glides like [j, w]. The articulators in the mouth are held wide enough apart to allow a steady stream of air to pass but not narrow enough to cause frication. Fricatives and approximants are related, however. Turning off the voicing of an approximant results in a fricative; the increased airflow after voicing ceases is enough to create frication.

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  • Ladefoged, D. (2010) A Course in Phonetics. 6th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing.'