'Lateral' in this context indicates that the air does not flow over the centre of the tongue, but rather along one of its rims. Let's take a closer look at what's going on here:
Pronounce the word atlas and feel what your tongue does when the two consonants /t/ and /l/ are pronounced. The tongue tip approaches the alveolar ridge to form a closure (= the approach stage), the soft palate (= velum) is already in a raised position to shut off the nasal cavity because the initial vowel is neither a nasal nor a nasalised sound. Then the closure is held for a few milliseconds (= the hold stage), while the air you exhale is blocked and compressed behind the closure.When it comes to articulating the /l/, one of the sides of your tongue is lowered while the tongue tip remains in contact with the alveolar ridge and the velum keeps shutting off the nasal passage by being raised. As a consequence the air escapes along the side of the tongue (= the release stage). You can pronounce this consonant sequence in isolation by saying /tl, tl, tl, .../.
BTW: Do you know how you personally pronounce an ell? Is your right or your left tongue rim lowered? There's an easy self-administrable test. I'm going to explain it to you in a separate blog, so stay tuned!
Lateral release does not only occur with homorganic consonant sequences - /tl/ and /dl/ - but also with heterorganic sequences, i.e. with consonants that do not share the same place of articulation as /l/. The word burgle is an example of such a heterorganic sequence as the /ɡ/ has a place of articulation totally different from /l/. Some native speakers will say /ˈbɜːɡəl/, others - the majority, at least the majority of GB speakers - say /bɜːɡl/. As the two consonants are heterorganic, some phoneticians do not call it lateral release, but rather either lateralised release or lateral escape, which is fine but irrelevant for our purposes here.
Lateral release does not only occur word-internally, but also at word bondaries where the first word ends in a plosive and the next word starts with a /l/ and there's no speech pause between the two. So we can also have a lateral release in cases such as lab locker, bad luck, hit list, lock laces or stop light. Try /bl, bl, bl, ... dl, dl, dl, ... kl, kl, kl, ... gl, gl, gl, .../.
Ready for a few sentences? Make sure you first recognise the places in each sentence at which a lateral release is possible. Here you go:
- Take out your atlas.
- Her son was killed in battle.
- You should use dental floss.
- The novel was translated badly into English.
- Take time to plan your bridal outfit.
- They were hired as soldiers by feudal lords.>
- Tell me a little bit about yourself.
- There was a first backlash against the women's movement.
- He held a towel around his middle.
- This is the best dog leash.
- It will take you at least twenty minutes to get there.
- It didn't last long enough.
- What luck for rulers that men do not think.
- He had good luck with his roses this year.
- I've had nothing but bad luck since I moved to this town.
- What's the best place to grab lunch?
- Would you please stop lying!
- Put a thick layer of cheese on top.
- The Fig Leaves are Falling is a Broadway musical.
- The desire for big lips is a recent phenomenon.
- You shouldn't return to work while on sick leave.
- The fig leaf is sometimes used in paintings to cover a naked person's sex organ.
- Stop lights are red lights fitted to the rear of a vehicle.
- From now on I'm going to work a lot less.