Final -l duplication [doubling consonant]

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Agró

Senior Member
Spanish-Navarre
Hi everyone, could you please explain why dial duplicates in BE whereas mail does not?:

e.g. dialling/mailing

Thank you very much.
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I suspect that it's merely a matter of convention. Someone more in the know might be able to point at the provenance of the words and the time when each entered the language. One source I find mentions the use of "dialling" (referring to sundials) in the 1600s, while "mailing" is apparently a more recent word.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Here is a UK web page that lays out English spelling rules. The applicable ones seem to be:

    The one that applies to mail, mailing
    • Do NOT double the final consonant when the base word has two vowels or two final consonants, e.g. leaf, leafy; shout, shouting; fool, foolish; self, selfish; mend, mending. [They don't say this, but they seem to mean when two vowels are pronounced as one or form a diphthong.]
    The one that applies to dial, dialling (Dial is a two-syllable word.):
    [Doubling L in multisyllabic words before suffixes] • In words ending in a single ‘l’ after a single vowel, double the ‘l’ before adding a suffix regardless of accent. • e.g. cancelled, levelling, travelled, signalling, metallic.

    Add: di-al has two syllables. The last syllable, -al has a single vowel (a), so this rule applies to it. The rule would be clearer if it said, "a single vowel in the final syllable."
     
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    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    Here is a UK web page that lays out English spelling rules. The applicable ones seem to be:

    The one that applies to mail, mailing
    • Do NOT double the final consonant when the base word has two vowels or two final consonants, e.g. leaf, leafy; shout, shouting; fool, foolish; self, selfish; mend, mending. [They don't say this, but they seem to mean when two vowels are pronounced as one, form a diphthong.]

    Among those examples only "shout" is a diphthong /au/. And that's why mail doesn't duplicate, ok.​
    The one that applies to dial, dialling (Dial is a two-syllable word.):
    [Doubling L in multisyllabic words before suffixes] • In words ending in a single ‘l’ after a single vowel, double the ‘l’ before adding a suffix regardless of accent. • e.g. cancelled, levelling, travelled, signalling, metallic.

    I agree with that.

    Add: di-al has two syllables. The last syllable, -al has a single vowel (a), so this rule applies to it. The rule would be clearer if it said, "a single vowel in the final syllable."

    Absolutely not. Every phonetic transcription I have looked up gives dial as a monosyllabic word with a tripthong /aie/. (Sorry I can't write schwas).
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Absolutely not. Every phonetic transcription I have looked up gives dial as a monosyllabic word with a tripthong /aie/. (Sorry I can't write schwas)
    Of course, I can't speak to what your dictionaries are telling you, but:

    The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary has dial as a two-syllable word: dai-el. (I can't do a schwa either.) The dot that marks the break in their phonetic spelling may be difficult to see, but it is there.

    Mirriam-Webster also marks it as a two-syllable word: di-al. Their phonetic spelling is: \ˈdī(-ə)l\, and they have an audio clip.

    I don't know how I would pronounce dial as a monosyllable.
     

    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    Sorry, Cagey, I was absolutely mistaken with the number of vowels in dial. However, some phonetic transcriptions give it as a two-vowel word, i.e. as a diphthong (/dail/), without a schwa before 'l', in which case the same rule for mail would apply here. I'm still confused, as there seems to be no clear agreement as to how many vowel sounds and syllables the word contains. You seem to pronounce it as a two-vowel word but is that the general use in English-speaking areas? Thanks.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I don't know what whether this is in used throughout the English-speaking areas. I can say that the OED also indicates a second syllable with a schwa.

    Added: I should note that in standard written English, "ia" is not a diphthong, but represents two separate sounds, as is apparent in the word dialect, for instance. However, there may be dialects in which these sounds are pronounced as one.

    Also, spelling conventions are (generally) based on the standard pronunciation of a word. They (generally) will not reflect dialectical variations. (I'm hedging because there are a few words for which alternate spellings are acceptable, and it's possible that these do reflect dialectical variation.)
     
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    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think that the monosyllable / disyllable issue is a red herring.

    In both British English and American English, verbs spelt with
    - vowel + vowel + consonant
    at the end generally keep the single consonant before -ed and -ing REGARDLESS of whether the the verb is a monosyllable or not, and REGARDLESS of whether the last sylllable is stressed or not: reaped, dreaded, mailed, soiled.

    However, the dictionaries do allow some optional irregular exceptions for some verbs, and dialled is one of them. Dialed is perfectly acceptable. Whatever the reason for the spelling dialled may be, it is an irregular spelling: my dictionary does not allow pealled :cross: or railled :cross:.

    In British spelling, exceptionally, and unlike in American spelling, verbs ending in
    - single vowel + l or
    - single vowel + p
    double the consonant REGARDLESS of whether the verb is a monosyllable or not, and REGARDLESS of whether the last syllable is stressed or not: levelled, worshipped, kidnapped, equalling, cavilling. I wonder whether this complication, affecting verbs ending in -l, caused the confusion that gave rise to dialled.

    Personally, I pronounce dial and even dialed / dialled as monosyllables: dial rhymes with smile and dialed rhymes with smiled. Many people pronounce dialed and smiled as disyllables - I am thinking particularly at the moment of my colleague who is a native Welsh speaker.
     
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    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre
    In British spelling, exceptionally, and unlike in American spelling, verbs ending in
    - single vowel + l or
    - single vowel + p
    double the consonant REGARDLESS of whether the verb is a monosyllable or not, and REGARDLESS of whether the last syllable is stressed or not: levelled, worshipped, kidnapped, equalling, cavilling. I wonder whether this complication, affecting verbs ending in -l, caused the confusion that gave rise to dialled.
    How about develop (developped:confused:)?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Well, there are consistent rules ... but as Teddy says, in English there are always exceptions to the rules, and there are almost always exceptions to the exceptions.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    A single L in AmE *except* if it is CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) and stress is on the final syllable.

    Of course, I read mostly British children's books when I was growing up (they were so much more interesting), so I sometimes (still) need to check which spelling system I am using.

    Oh, and just to go off-topic and mention other exceptions to double letter rules:
    quitting, formatting
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I thought that it was only "l" that was (in BrE) doubled regardless of the stress pattern ...
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Oh, and just to go off-topic and mention other exceptions to double letter rules:
    quitting, formatting
    Surely quitting is regular? It is stressed on the final syllable (because it is a monosyllable) so the consonant t is doubled.

    Personally, I write formating, on the basis that the verb has only been around since 1964 (according to the OED), so maybe the dictionaries remain susceptible to my rationalizing influence.
     
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