Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Articulated with relatively low pressure of the airstream below the glottis, as English (b) and (d) compared with (p) and (t).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. weakly articulated (of a consonant), hence voiced; especially as compared to the others of a group of homorganic consonants.

Etymologies

Latin lēnis, soft; see lē- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Latin lenis ("soft, smooth"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The fortis stops, being marked, are much less frequent and have greater restrictions than the 'lenis' stops such as *t or *dh in the traditional notation.

    Markedness and the uvular proposal in PIE

  • We can see that unaspirated stops are probably "lenis" i.e. requiring comparatively less articulatory effort while aspirated stops are "fortis".

    Bronze Age Areal influence in Anatolia and Etruscan

  • Here are all of the Latin words that could conceivably be translated into English as "kind": pius, lenis, genus, comis, benignus, benignitas, beneficus, et almus.

    At What Level did this Evolve?

  • The only thing that could be said about Hittite writing of fortis-lenis distinction is that in writing it looks like all initial consonants are lenis.

    Bronze Age Areal influence in Anatolia and Etruscan

  • Phoenix: "But if there was a fortis-lenis distinction word initially, I guess we would expect Hittite to make use of the voicing distinction the writing system did have."

    Bronze Age Areal influence in Anatolia and Etruscan

  • But if there was a fortis-lenis distinction word initially, I guess we would expect Hittite to make use of the voicing distinction the writing system did have.

    Bronze Age Areal influence in Anatolia and Etruscan

  • Secondly, if Hittite had lost voicing as a distinctive feature of the language, let's say, while retaining fortis-lenis contrast word-initially, then using voicing distinctions in a foreign system may not have necessarily appealed to the Hittite scribes.

    Bronze Age Areal influence in Anatolia and Etruscan

  • Northern and much of central German have a voice-and-aspiration contrast like English, southwestern German has a length contrast, and southeastern German has a pure fortis-lenis contrast in those dialects that have any constrast at all...

    How NOT to reconstruct a protolanguage

  • Again, the dreaded "North Caucasian *ƛ̣_VẋwV ( ˜ Ł_-)" contains only two wildcards (the two instances of V) and uncertainty about whether the initial consonant was ejective or voiced (in other words, it was not aspirated; unlike American ones, Caucasian ejectives are lenes, not fortes, so I'm not terribly surprised it's not always possible to tell if such a lenis was voiced or ejective).

    How NOT to reconstruct a protolanguage

  • I think this shows a ‘prescriptive’ attitude in which the RP speakers think that the rolled ‘r’ is the ‘correct’ one and, therefore, elevated pronunciation deserves the ‘fortis’ as opposed to ‘lenis’ realization of the sound.

    The Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation | Linguism | Language Blog

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