12th letter of the Phoenician and other Semitic graphic systems (lamed) and of most modern European alphabets, the 23d in Arabic, the 27th in Persian and Turkish, and the 11th in Greek the 12th before the dropping of the digamma) and Latin. It is one of the four liquids of grammarians (I, m, ft, r), and of the four akshara yavarga (ya, ra, la, va) or semi-vowels in the Devanagari. The sound is produced by placing the tip of the tongue against the upper incisor teeth, while the breath issues at its sides and the larynx vibrates; and it is hence called a lingui-dental. Priscian attributes to the Latin L three sounds, one full, one middle, and one slender. In English, German, and other languages, it has but one sound. The French l mouille (ly uttered with one breath, as in million) is generally expressed by ll following i, as in tilleul, but sometimes by I, as in ceil, and Ih, as in gentil-homme. The Spanish 11 always has the mouille sound, even as an initial, and is reckoned as a separate character in the alphabet. It is expressed in Portuguese by lh, in Italian by gl before i, and in Magyar by ly, in all positions. The Polish, Ruthenic, and Lusato-Vendic barred t is pronounced by pushing and swelling the tongue to the palate, as in Pol. ptaski (Ger. platt), flat. The Welsh 11 is pronounced with a hissing, as in llan or Ihan (temple), Lloyd, etc, almost as if written fl.
Some nations and persons cannot pronounce I, as for instance the Japanese, who use r in its stead, as in Sagarien for Sa-ghalien. The Chinese, on the contrary, unable to utter r, always substitute I, as in Kilisit for Christ. There was no L in Zend. It is often mute in English before consonants, as in could, calm, half, psalm, etc. (although pronounced in similar positions in all other languages), and when final in some French words, as in baril, outil, sourcil, in fils, etc. In words transferred from one language to another, I is often interchanged with r, n, d, i, or u; as Eng. pilgrim (Lat. peregrinus), Fr. orme (Lat. ulmus, elm), Lat. lympha (Gr. Ulysses i Ital. fiore, bianco (Lat. flora, blancus), Dutch goud (gold), etc. - As a numeral sign, L denotes 30 in the Semitic (except Ethiopian, where it marks 2), Greek, Russian, Armenian, Cyrillic, and Georgian; 50 in Latin and Glagolitic (in the former as being a half of the ancient E or C, centum). A dash above it raises these values to as many thousands. In rubrication it marks 11. In abbreviations it stands for Lucius, Lcelius, Lares, libens, libertus, locus, latus, libra (£, pound sterling), etc. L. S. stands for locus sigilli, place of the seal; LL. D. for legum doctor, doctor of laws. On old French coins L stands for Bayonne.