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Definition: Liquids, like all consonants, involve a substantial constriction of the vocal tract, but the constrictions for liquids are not narrow enough the block the vocal tract or cause turbulence. For the later (= side) liquid, the midline, or center, of the vocal tract is completely obstructed, like in a stop, but there is a side passage around the tongue.
Source: Language Files, eleventh edition, edited by Vedrana Mihalicek and Christin Wilson