"Dark L" pronounced at the beginning of a word

Discussion in 'English Only' started by toscairn, Apr 26, 2006.

  1. toscairn Banned

    Are there any English words with the beginning of a word pronounced "dark L"?

    (Dark L: "L" pronounced in such words as "pool", "milk")
  2. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English

    Dark L occurs at the end of words, and before consonnants.

    Light L occurs before a vowel or a /j/.

    In all English words which begin with L, the next sound is a vowel or /j/.
    Thus there is no English word with a dark L at the beginning.
  3. suzzzenn Senior Member

    New York
    USA English
    according to the website below the "dark L" or velarized L occurs in all positions in Scottish English.

    "Some other dialects of English, such as Scottish English, use a velarized or dark l in all positions, while Hiberno-English (Irish English) uses clear l everywhere. Some English accents, such as Cockney and Estuary English use [w], or [o] instead of dark l's, a process known as l-vocalization (so that bell becomes "beww" and milk becomes "miwk")

  4. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    Do "llama" and "llano" count. I know there origin is Spanish but they are in the English dictionary.
  5. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    They are not pronounced with a dark L (except by Scots ;)).
  6. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    What the heck is the difference between a "dark L" and a "light L"? I seem to use the same "L" sound no matter where the "L" is in the word.
  7. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I see the link Suzzzenn posted isn't working. The dark L.
  8. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    May be you don't differenciate between the two in your pronunciation of English.

    It is to do with the position of the tongue.
    With light L the tongue touches the alveolar ridge, close to where the tongue is when you say T or D.
    With dark L the tongue touches the back of the teeth.
  9. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    I guess I always use the dark L because I always touch the teeth when I use the letter "L". That explains why I couldn't see the difference between my pronounciation no matter where the L was.
  10. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    Not always, Brioche.

    Dark L at the beginning of a syllable is an allophonic variant in a minority of AE speakers (or a slight speech defect, in others' opinion). A lot of people don't even hear this difference, including some of the speakers using this dark L themselves. It is not regional, but individual. I am not a speech therapist but suspect there is a physiological tendancy to this.

    Even some famous public figures have a dark L -- former news anchor Tom Brokaw, radio journalist Ira Glass (whose dark L you hear every time he says his own name), NYC ex-mayor Rudi Giuliani, etc. It hasn't held them back!

    An American friend of mine has this dark L, but never realized it. When she went to Brazil and pronounced Portuguese words beginning with L, the Brazilians heard an R--a big mixup for her--and that was the way she first realized her speech was unusual.
  11. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    I am Scottish and I always use the dark L, I think, but is there something in between a dark and light L? For example, I say laughter with an L which is a lot softer to that of 'loch' but I still touch my teeth!
  12. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    ... and people from some parts of the North of England.
  13. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Quite possibly. Phoneticists atomize sounds for convenience, but many sound features actually vary along a continuum.
  14. Mr. Literal New Member

    I'm pretty sure for Tom Brokaw, and certain for Ira Glass, that they don't have dark L's; what they have is a uvular nasal consonant. I used to have it myself, and I've heard it in a few other people. To make it, start off with the 'ng' sound; the back of your tongue should be touching the border area between your hard and soft palates. Keep making the sound while you slide the back of your tongue even further back, so that it's well onto the soft palate, toward the uvula. This sound is represented as [N] in the IPA.
  15. nodoubt9203 New Member

    Greater LA Area
    General American/Californian English & Mexican/Argentinean Spanish
    I'm Californian and all my L's seem to be dark but two "shades" of dark. My "light L's" sound very much like a dark L and my dark L sounds sounds sorta pharyngealized, I'm not sure how to explain it.
  16. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    The sound /l/ is lateral. The tip of the tongue is as for /t/, /d/, or /n/, but the sides are relaxed. Thus air is free to flow around the sides but not through the middle. This allows a simultaneous vowel sound, which for a "dark" /l/ is a back vowel, similar to /o/ but not necessarily with the lips rounded. For my dark /l/, I use a simultaneous vowel very much like the w in how, where the o is close to the a in cat (/æ/).

    The "clear" or "light" /l/ includes a middle vowel like the schwa e in the.

    Most people don't notice, but at the start of a syllable, /l/ is naturally darker before back vowels and lighter before front vowels.

    To answer the original question, I don't know of any dialect of English that distinguishes light and dark /l/ at the start of a syllable. Syllable-initial /l/ just anticipates the vowel sound that follows.

    What we do notice is the /l/ at the end of a syllable, which for most native speakers of English is always dark, even when following a front vowel, and after a vowel tends to sound like a separate syllable (e.g. bell, bill).

    Tom Brokaw and Ira Glass pronounce their ls not only "dark", but with no /l/ sound at all. I don't think the sound they use is nasal, or uvular either actually. It is vocalic, like the Cockney vocalised l, at the end of a syllable, and at the beginning of a syllable is almost the same, but quicker and with more friction between the back of the tongue and the soft palate (velum).

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