Lax (definition)

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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.

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