/l/-vocalisation and dark/clear L

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Werdan

Member
Arabic
Hi,

I know that there are a few threads regarding this topic but what I am wondering about is different from what has been discussed.

What I know is that not all dialects of English (British English) have developed the dark/clear L split which is common in the South East region and other areas in England, with clear L at the beginning of words such as light, lack, leak etc. and dark L in other contexts such as pool, cool, call, build etc. Irish English for example is claimed to have only clear L in all contexts.

My question is: Do you think there is any relation between the dark/clear split, on the one hand, and /l/ vocalisation? In other words, is this split a prerequisit for /l/ vocalisation to occur? If this is the case, then /l/ vocalisation should be totally absent in language varieties that haven't already developed the split between dark and clear L.

Personally I don't think that the split is a prerequisit?

I'm sorry for my long question and thanks in advance for any comments!
Werdan
 
  • envie de voyager

    Senior Member
    english-canadian
    In my life, I have never heard of a spoken sound being referred to as being dark or clear. This is probably due to the fact that in my area (Canada), there is no difference whatsoever between the way L is pronounced in the words light, lack, leak, etcetera, and the way L is pronounced in the words pool, cool, call, build, etcetera.

    This might be the reason why I'm not really sure what you are asking here. The way I understand your question, it seems that you are asking if there needs to be two different ways of pronouncing the letter L before there are two different ways of pronouncing the letter L. Obviously, this is not your intended meaning. If you could rephrase your question, someone might be able to help you.
     

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    a) light, lack, leak
    b) pool, cool, call, build

    The first 3 are spoken with the front of the tongue touching the front of the upper mouth and bottom jaw pulling the tongue away from the roof of the mouth.

    For pool, cool and call the tongue stays at the bottom of the mouth.

    In build the tongue starts the same as for lack but it is not pulled away from the roof and the d is pronounced by pullng down the tongue.

    Experimental data:- 19th March 2010. My UK-En

    GF..
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I have never heard a native variety of English that did not have the "split", but since the Irish language itself has two distinct l sounds, I can imagine Irish English may use them in a different way than we do.

    Where I live, we have more than two varieties of l. For example, ll in bull/full/pull has a simultaneous vowel similar to the oo of book, since it follows such a vowel; ll in dull has a simultaneous [ɤ]-like sound, and the u sounds like [ɤ] too.

    In my dialect, the l in coal has a simultaneous vowel similar to the offglide of the oa diphthong, and the l of school has the simultaneous [ɤ]-like sound. In some neighboring dialects, the l of coal takes the [ɤ]-like sound, but the l of school has a simultaneous vowel similar to the offglide of the oo diphthong.

    In some dialects, dull has a u as in duck followed by a dark l (with a simultaneous [ɤ]-like vowel).

    Many Americans pronounce schedule with a secondary stress on the dark l, creating three syllables, but I grew up pronouncing it with two syllables only, and no stress on the dark l.
     

    Werdan

    Member
    Arabic
    It seems I haven't been clear enough in my question, sorry for any confusion.

    An important part of my question is concerned with a linguistic feature called /L/ vocalisation which renders words like call, build, Paul and Paul's to be heard possibly like /kɔː/,/biwd/,/pɔː/ and /pɔːz/ respectively.

    Is it possible for this feature, i.e. L vocalisation, to be found in dialects that only have clear /l/?

    I hope things are not more complicated now :)


     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I would imagine that when l loses its lateral quality, it becomes whatever vowel underlies it, but usually this is a dark l.

    As best I can tell, Tom Brokaw uses a [ɤ] vowel, not a consonant, for all his ls. This may either be idiopathic or represent influence from a language like Polish. (Is Brokaw a Polish name?)

    My uncle's ls are just like Tom Brokaw's, but he assuredly did not grow up around Polish speakers, so I think he just never "picked up on" the difference.

    Some speakers, especially children, even confuse l, r, and w sounds.
     

    Werdan

    Member
    Arabic
    Thanks Forero for your interesting comments.

    I have managed to listen to some speakers from Southern Ireland available on the British Library's website (see the website below) and I noticed two things:
    1. There is only clear /l/ as Hickey 1999:218 mentioned.
    2. To my surprise, from the three speakers I listened to, none of them had L vocalisation in his/her speech!

    This might really suggest that for L vocalisation to spread in a given speech community, dark /l/ should have already been established, be it the only variant as might be the case in Scotish English, or one of two variants for L which is the case in many if not most English speaking communities.

    Thanks for Timpeac for providing this link
    http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/sounds/index.html
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Well, apart from England English, I know of three other instances of l-vocalization: Polish, Portuguese, and Old French. All four clearly have or had a dark [l] in the positions that later had a high back vowel, but not in some other positions. By contrast, accents of English that have dark [l] everywhere (most American and Australian and Scottish) show no signs of it turning uniformly into [w]. So, yes, your idea seems right as far as the evidence goes: the positional split is what leads into vocalization of the dark allophone.
     

    envie de voyager

    Senior Member
    english-canadian
    a) light, lack, leak
    b) pool, cool, call, build

    The first 3 are spoken with the front of the tongue touching the front of the upper mouth and bottom jaw pulling the tongue away from the roof of the mouth.

    For pool, cool and call the tongue stays at the bottom of the mouth.

    In build the tongue starts the same as for lack but it is not pulled away from the roof and the d is pronounced by pullng down the tongue.

    Experimental data:- 19th March 2010. My UK-En

    GF..
    I'm sure that this is true in your area George, but there are many variations of English. In my area, unless the L is specifically meant to be silent (as in walk, talk, etc.), when there is an L in a word, your tongues touches the roof of your mouth. A child growing up here who could not accomplish this would be given professional help to overcome his speech impediment. ;)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Some children (temporarily) use y for light l, for example "yight" for light, and French light l has vocalized to a y sound in some environments, for example in the word ail.

    So I suppose light and dark varieties of l tend to vocalize to different (semi)vowels.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    What I know is that not all dialects of English (British English) have developed the dark/clear L split which is common in the South East region and other areas in England, with clear L at the beginning of words such as light, lack, leak etc. and dark L in other contexts such as pool, cool, call, build etc. Irish English for example is claimed to have only clear L in all contexts.
    Not being a linguist, I'm not sure I fully understand the difference between light and dark L's, however I can confirm that the L sound in Irish English is indeed pronounced the same in all these words.
    The tounge consistently touches the roof of the mouth.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Not being a linguist, I'm not sure I fully understand the difference between light and dark L's, however I can confirm that the L sound in Irish English is indeed pronounced the same in all these words.
    The tounge consistently touches the roof of the mouth.
    It is not whether it touches the roof of the mouth, it is exactly where and how it touches the roof of the mouth.

    There is an L which is a velarised alveolar approximant, as in the word peel, and another L which is an alveolar lateral approximant, as in let.

    Many speakers of English are completely unaware of these differences, even when they occur in their own dialect.
     

    Werdan

    Member
    Arabic
    Thanks Brioche for explaining this.
    What I wanted to add is that it's only when L is vocalised, the tongue doesn't touch the roof of the mouth where we hear a /w/-like sound as in /how/.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Thanks Brioche for explaining this.
    What I wanted to add is that it's only when L is vocalised, the tongue doesn't touch the roof of the mouth where we hear a /w/-like sound as in /how/.
    The offglide of ow (as in how) in my dialect is the same [ɤ]-sound that makes the l dark in the proper names Al and Hal. The only difference between Hal [hæl] and how [hæɤ] in my dialect is where I place the tip of my tongue at the end.

    If I were to not raise the tip of my tongue for a light l sound, it would be a schwa, not a [ɤ].

    All my uncle's and Tom Brokaw's ls seem to be somewhere between [ɤ] (a velar vowel) and [ɣ] (a velar consonant), except for becoming unvoiced where l is normally unvoiced (e.g. in place).
     

    Werdan

    Member
    Arabic
    The offglide of ow (as in how) in my dialect is the same [ɤ]-sound that makes the l dark in the proper names Al and Hal
    Hi Forero,
    Though I claim to be a sociolinguist :) I feel confused by what you said!
    What do you mean by "...that makes the l dark in the proper names Al and Hal"?

    [ɤ],[w] or don't make L dark or clear, they are rather the outcome of the of the vocalisation process after which /L/ is neither clear nor dark, but rather vocalised
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    In the case of the South-East England vocalization, a further change has taken place. The resulting vowel is not simply the velarization tongue-approach with the alveolar blockage opened: that would give a back unrounded vowel or approximant of the kind Forero is describing. Round these parts, it is now a rounded vowel. My teachers disputed about the representation: John Wells considers it forms a diphthong and uses [o], as in [fɪo] fill, but John Harris prefers a semivowel symbol and writes [fɪw]. As I don't use this sound myself, I can't experiment and give my own opinion.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    L is a special kind of consonant that allows a simultaneous vowel or semivowel. For [l], the tip of the tongue touches the aveolar ridge, but the airflow is not totally blocked. What the rest of the tongue does determines the simultaneous vowel and hence whether the l sound is "light" (simultaneous front vowel) or "dark" (simultaneous back vowel).

    I am not familiar with Irish English, but I have heard that the Irish language (a Celtic language) has what is called a "broad" l and a "slender" l. Unfortunately, I don't know how these two ls sound, but I think the slender l is associated with palatal consonants and front vowels, which would make it not at all "dark", and may make it a palatal lateral consonant ([ʎ]) rather than an alveolar one.

    In my English, which I don't believe to be unusual, l is always "dark" at the end of a syllable, as I have described. Otherwise, l has either a simultaneous schwa or anticipates the following vowel, which may be velar as, for example, in low.

    The term "vocalized l" sometimes refers to the dark l that can act as a syllable nucleus, but complete vocalization of an l leaves just the vowel sound with no lateral consonant at all, as I have described for my uncle and Tom Brokaw.

    I am not sure, but I think what I hear English-speaking "vocalized l" users doing is substituting a velar approximant (something like a weak [ɣ] or a fricative-sounding [ɤ]) for the initial l and the vowel [ɤ] itself for the "dark" syllabic and syllable-final l.

    I think it is palatal [ʎ] sounds that most readily vocalizes to a y-like sound ([j] or ), but I have noticed one English-speaking child using [j] for both initial l and initial y and another English-speaking child using [l] for both, so "clear" l vocalizing to [j] or does not seem far-fetched to me.
     
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