This study examines formant and spectral moment data for the apical and retroflex lateral sounds /l ɭ/ of the Dravidian languages Kannada and Malayalam, together with the rhotic /ɻ/ of Malayalam. Data are presented for 10 male speakers of each language. We find that the first spectral moment is lower for retroflex laterals than for alveolar laterals, and lower for the rhotic /ɻ/ of Malayalam than for the retroflex lateral in the same language. Differences emerge when the retroflex lateral of Kannada is compared with the same sound in Malayalam. For both languages, F1 is higher and F3 and F4 are lower for the retroflex /ɭ/ than for the alveolar /l/. However, F2 is higher for the retroflex than for the alveolar sound in Kannada, but lower in Malayalam. This difference is also reflected in differences in the second spectral moment between the languages. It is suggested that since proximity of F2 and F3 is known to be a defining feature of the rhotic /ɻ/ in Malayalam, principles of phonetic dispersion apply to keep F2 from becoming too close to F3 for the retroflex lateral /ɭ/ of Malayalam, but not for the same sound in Kannada.