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Latin alphabet .svg
? ?
Letter L with stroke

? or ?, described in English as L with stroke, is a letter of the West Slavic (Polish, Kashubian, and Sorbian), Belarusian Latin, Ukrainian Latin, Wymysorys, Navajo, Dëne Sné, Inupiaq, Zuni, Hupa, Sm'álgyax, Nisga'a, and Dogrib alphabets, several proposed alphabets for the Venetian language, and the ISO 11940 romanization of the Thai script. In Slavic languages, it represents the continuation of Proto-Slavic, non-palatal ⟨L⟩ (dark L), except in Polish, Kashubian, and Sorbian, where it evolved further into /w/. In most non-European languages, it represents a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative or similar sound.

Glyph shape

Upright cursive ? and ? letters

In normal typefaces, the letter has a stroke approximately in the middle of the vertical stem, crossing it at an angle between 70° and 45°, never horizontally. In cursive handwriting and typefaces that imitate it, the capital letter has a horizontal stroke through the middle and looks very similar to the pound sign £. In the cursive lowercase letter, the stroke is also horizontal and placed on top of the letter instead of going through the middle of the stem, which would not be distinguishable from the letter t. The stroke is either straight or slightly wavy, depending on the style. Unlike ⟨l⟩, the letter ⟨?⟩ is usually written without a noticeable loop at the top. Most publicly available multilingual cursive typefaces, including commercial ones, feature an incorrect glyph for ⟨?⟩.[1]

A rare variant of the ? glyph is a cursive double-? ligature, used in words such as Jagieo, Radziwi or Aach (archaic: Allah), where the strokes at the top of the letters are joined into a single stroke.[1]


In Polish, ⟨?⟩ is used to distinguish historical dark (velarized) L [?] from clear L [l]. The Polish ⟨?⟩ now sounds the same as the English ⟨W⟩, as in water (except for older speakers in some eastern dialects where it still sounds velarized).

In 1440, Jakub Parkoszowic [pl] proposed a letter resembling to represent clear L. For dark L he suggested "l" with a stroke running in the opposite direction to the modern version.[] The latter was introduced in 1514-1515 by Stanis?aw Zaborowski in his Orthographia seu modus recte scribendi et legendi Polonicum idioma quam utilissimus. L with stroke originally represented a velarized alveolar lateral approximant [?],[2] a pronunciation that is preserved in the eastern part of Poland[3] and among the Polish minority in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. This pronunciation is similar to Russian unpalatalised ⟨?⟩ in native words and grammar forms.

In modern Polish, ? is usually pronounced /w/ (exactly as w in English as a consonant, as in wet).[4] This pronunciation first appeared among Polish lower classes in the 16th century. It was considered an uncultured accent by the upper classes (who pronounced ⟨?⟩ as /?/) until the mid-20th century when this distinction gradually began to fade.[]

The shift from [?] to [w] in Polish has affected all instances of dark L, even word-initially or intervocalically, e.g. ?adny ("pretty, nice") is pronounced ['wadn?], s?owo ("word") is ['sw?v?], and cia?o ("body") is ['t?aw?]. ? often alternates with clear L, such as the plural forms of adjectives and verbs in the past tense that are associated with masculine personal nouns, e.g. ma?y -> mali (['maw?] -> ['mali]). Alternation is also common in declension of nouns, e.g. from nominative to locative, t?o -> na tle ([tw?] -> [na'tl?]).

Polish final ? also often corresponds to Ukrainian word-final ⟨?⟩ Ve (Cyrillic) and Belarusian ⟨?⟩ (Short U (Cyrillic). Thus, "he gave" is "da?" in Polish, "" in Ukrainian, "" in Belarusian (all pronounced [daw]), but "" [da?] in Russian.


Notable figures

Some examples of words with '?':

In contexts where ? is not readily available as a glyph, basic L is used instead. Thus, the surname Ma?ecki would be spelled Malecki in a foreign country. Similarly, the stroke is sometimes omitted on the internet, as may happen with all diacritic-enhanced letters. Leaving out the diacritic does not impede communication for native speakers.

In the 1980s, when some computers available in Poland lacked Polish diacritics, it was common practice to use a pound sterling sign (£) for ?. This practice ceased as soon as DOS-based and Mac computers came with a code page for such characters.

Other languages

In Belarusian ?acinka (both in the 1929[5] and 1962[6][7] versions), ⟨?⟩ corresponds to Cyrillic ⟨?⟩ (El), and is normally pronounced /?/ (almost exactly as in English pull).

In Navajo, ⟨?⟩ is used for a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative /?/, like the Welsh double L.[8]

⟨?⟩ is used in orthographic transcription of Ahtna, an Athabaskan language spoken in Alaska; it represents a breathy lateral fricative.[9][10] It is also used in Tanacross, a related Athabaskan language.[11]

When writing IPA for some Scandinavian dialects which involve the pronunciation of a retroflex flap /?/, e.g. in Eastern Norwegian dialects, authors may employ ⟨?⟩.[]

Computer usage

The Unicode codepoints for the letter are U+0142 for the lower case, and U+0141 for the capital.[12] In the LaTeX typesetting system ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩ may be typeset with the commands \L{} and \l{}, respectively. The HTML-codes are Ł and ł for ⟨?⟩ and ⟨?⟩, respectively.

Character ? ?
Character encoding decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 321 0141 322 0142
UTF-8 197 129 0xC5 0x81 197 130 0xC5 0x82
Numeric character reference Ł Ł ł ł
CP 852 157 9D 136 88
CP 775 173 AD 136 88
Mazovia 156 9C 146 92
Windows-1250, ISO-8859-2 163 A3 179 B3
Windows-1257, ISO-8859-13 217 D9 249 F9
Mac Central European 252 FC 184 B8

See also

  • ?, ? - short U (Belarusian Cyrillic)
  • £ - pound sign
  • In Venetian, a similar glyph ⟨?⟩, ⟨?⟩ (L with bar, a horizontal bar) is used as substitution for L in many words in which the pronunciation of "L" has changed for some dialects, i.e. by becoming voiceless or becoming the sound of the shorter vowel corresponding to /?/ or /?/.


  1. ^ a b Adam Twardoch (2009-03-09). "Kreska uko?na". Polish Diacritics: how to?. Retrieved .
  2. ^ Teslar, Joseph Andrew; Teslar, Jadwiga (1962). A New Polish Grammar (8th Edition, Revised ed.). Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd. pp. 4-5. ? = English l hard, dental ; ... It is true, of course, that the majority of Poles nowadays pronounce this sound with the lips, exactly like the English w. But this is a careless pronunciation leading eventually to the disappearance of a sound typically Polish (and Russian also ; it has already disappeared from the other Slavonic languages, Czech and Serbian) ... In articulating l, your tongue ... projects considerably beyond the horizontal line separating the gums from the teeth and touches the gums or the palate. To pronounce ? ... the tongue should be held flat and rigid in the bottom of the mouth with the tip just bent upwards sufficiently to touch the edge of the front upper teeth. (On no account should the tongue extend beyond the line separating the teeth from the gums.) Holding the tongue rigidly in this position, a speaker should then pronounce one of the vowels a, o or u, consciously dropping the tongue on each occasion, to obtain the hard ? quite distinct from the soft l.
  3. ^ Swan, Oscar E. (1983). First Year Polish (2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded ed.). Columbus: Slavica Publishers. p. xix. ? (so-called barrel l) is not pronounced like an l except in Eastern dialects and, increasingly infrequently, in stage pronunciation. It is most often pronounced like English w in way, how. "?eb, da?a, by?, pi?ka.
  4. ^ Mazur, B. W. (1983). Colloquial Polish. London: Routledge. p. 5. The sounds below exist in English but are pronounced or rendered differently: c ... h[, ] ch ... j ... ? as w in wet[, ] ?ach ?ad s?owo[; ] r ... w
  5. ^ ?, ?. (1991). ? ?. - ( ?  ed.). ? . . ?, 1929 ; . : « ».
  6. ^ , (1962). ? ? ? ? ?.
  7. ^ , (2002). ? ? ? . 2. ?. ISBN 985-6599-46-6.
  8. ^ Campbell, George L. (1995). Concise Compendium of the World's Languages. London: Routledge. p. 354.
  9. ^ "Ahtna Pronunciation Guide". Native Languages of the Americas. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Tuttle, Siri G. "Syllabic obstruents in Ahtna Athabaskan" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 23, 2007. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Holton, Gary (April 2004). "Writing Tanacross Without Special Fonts". Alaska Native Language Center. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "Unicode Character 'LATIN SMALL LETTER L WITH STROKE' (U+0142)". FileFormat.info. Retrieved .

External links

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