Lax sounds are produced with minimal tension in the tongue or a more retracted tongue root. They contrast with tense sounds that are also said to be [+ATR]; such sounds are characterized by the greater tension in the articulators caused by pulling the tongue root forward. English [i] (as in beet) is a tense sound compared to English [ɪ] (as in bit) which is the lax equivalent.
Gaelic has a tense/lax contrast in its sonorants (l, n, r); the contrast is sometimes referred to a fortis/lenis distinction, where fortis is to tense as lenis is to lax.
- Tense in Phonetics (definition)
- Advanced Tongue Root (definition)
- Fortis (definition)
- Sonorant (definition)
- Sounds of Scottish Gaelic
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- Ladefoged, D. (2010) A Course in Phonetics. 6th Edition. Wadsworth Publishing.