silent "l" in "almost"

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Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
I'm on the west coast of the US, and I tend to pronounce almost as ['oʊmoʊst] (I also say ['almoʊst] or [ˈɔlmoʊst], sometimes).

I just checked dictionary.com, and it doesn't seem to recognize the ['oʊmoʊst] pronunciation: it only mentions [ˈɔlmoʊst] and [ɔlˈmoʊst].

Does anyone else pronounce almost this way? What regions is this pronunciation of almost (without "l") concentrated in?
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I pronounce the "l" in almost but (not being from the West Coast) I do not pronounce the L in "palm" or "almond". It would be curious if you drop the L in almost, but keep the west coast insertion of the "L" into "palm".

    Do you?
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I pronounce the "l" in almost but (not being from the West Coast) I do not pronounce the L in "palm" or "almond". It would be curious if you drop the L in almost, but keep the west coast insertion of the "L" into "palm".

    Do you?
    No, I've always tended to pronounce it as ['pɔm] (similarly, I leave the "l" sound out of almond).
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Maybe in that variety of southern British English which goes by the name of "Estuary English", where I understand they say /fiʊm/ instead of /film/.

    Best.

    GS
     
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    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    L-vocalisation does exist over in America, but I don't think it's standardised quite like it is in South East England.
    I don't think it's overall the more common pronunciation looking at English from a world-wide standpoint.
    No, I've always tended to pronounce it as ['pɔm] (similarly, I leave the "l" sound out of almond).
    Hi Gavril. Can I just double check you meant to write that IPA? What you've written makes me think of a really weird way of saying "poem" where the vowel has been deliberately shortened and looks like it'd be spelt "porm". I can't help thinking maybe you meant /pɑ:m/ with an unrounded back vowel (like a lot of American speech exhibits) rather than a higher rounded back vowel. If you're confident you were right, I'd be really interested to hear a recording of the pronunciation (or a similar one) so I can hear for myself what it sounds like, because it's not something I'm aware of at the moment.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Hi Gavril. Can I just double check you meant to write that IPA? What you've written makes me think of a really weird way of saying "poem" where the vowel has been deliberately shortened and looks like it'd be spelt "porm". I can't help thinking maybe you meant /pɑ:m/ with an unrounded back vowel (like a lot of American speech exhibits) rather than a higher rounded back vowel.
    No doubt I should have written ['pɑm] instead of ['pɔm] -- thanks for catching that.

    It's been a while since I've done much phonetic transcription, and somehow I've gotten into the habit of thinking that the vowel of awe, thought, talk, cot etc. (as I pronounce them) should be transcribed [ɔ].
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It's been a while since I've done much phonetic transcription, and somehow I've gotten into the habit of thinking that the vowel of awe, thought, talk, cot etc. (as I pronounce them) should be transcribed [ɔ].
    That's for us British speakers :D
    But "palm" does not belong to that category of words for (I think) all of us. 'Palm' would be a (what-I-call) a 'cross-over' word, giving a clear indication that it's the (very normal) [ɔ] -> [ɑ] shift in American English (from the point of view of a British speaker). So if you looked at a dictionary and saw the transcription of 'thought' and it was the British version, that might lead you to generalise that (providing that 'palm' is the same vowel) that the British [ɔ:))] extends over to 'palm' when in fact it's the [ɑ] sound in 'thought' that led you astray. Then by your inclusion of 'cot' I can see your variety has undergone the COT-CAUGHT merger (same vowel as 'thought', which isn't the [ɔ] sound but the other one). So a perfectly understandable habit to get into!
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    The "l" in "almost" is very dark by nature, and by being so dark it should have a natural tendency to fade into a "w" sound. Probably a lot of native speakers are not even aware they are doing it. I would wager that "l" beforw consonants (at least in American English) is virtually lost, or a virtual "w" sound. I find that the pronunciation representation in dictionaries is either antiquated or quite off--at least for American English. And don't get me started on the lack of a light "l" in American English...
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The "l" in "almost" is very dark by nature, and by being so dark it should have a natural tendency to fade into a "w" sound. Probably a lot of native speakers are not even aware they are doing it. I would wager that "l" beforw consonants (at least in American English) is virtually lost, or a virtual "w" sound. I find that the pronunciation representation in dictionaries is either antiquated or quite off--at least for American English. And don't get me started on the lack of a light "l" in American English...
    This is very big characteristic of Cockney English, though I can't say I've ever heard any American pronunciation with anything comparable.
    How would you rate what you're talking about in AE? Comparable to Cockney? Not quite as strong?
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Yes, it is characteristic of Cockney or Estuary (yes?). But saying "awmost" (maybe Cockney is more "owmost") is quite normal American. Even in the name "Albert", the "l" would just disappear in normal speech--maybe not a "w". But, the disappearing and the "w" are both sort of "logical" consequences of the darkness of the "l"--notice that the l in "walk" "chalk" has "officially" disappeared completely from pronunciation.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    For me, velarised-L and L-vocalisation are quite distinct, and I'm a little curious if we're drawing the line of distinction in the same place. Maybe what I consider as velarised-L you might be counting as L-vocalisation? Can you point to an example for me to hear? I'm curious to check :D
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Dark L's mess up with the pronunciation of many vowels, so

    many people round their unrounded vowels: involve (solve, resolve), dolphin, golf...
    Agent Dana Scully pronounced Mulder as Molder/Moulder, culture as colture, pulse as pols...
    Why she did not pronounce her last name as Scally/scoly is beyond me. :D
    Valley girls pronounce bald and bold the same (in conservative Californian bald has the unrounded vowel of collage/caller~collar/dollar)
    Super Ball is occasionally pronounced similar to Super Bowl.

    After watching his children play with a Super Ball, Lamar Hunt, founder of the American Football League, coined the term Super Bowl
    Super ball/bowl merger or bald/bold merger.

    In the American Mountain West (cot/caught merged region), and also by many people in the Great Lakes Area (cot/caught unmerged but NCVShifted) this merger is avoided because ball is /ˈbɑ:l/ and bald is /ˈbɑ:ld/ .

    OED on the L in all:

    In northern and Scots a' , l is lost as in alms , talk . A occurs rarely and doubtfully in Middle English northern or n. midl.; a' is the current spelling in modern literary Scots.
    I've heard always pronounced as ['ɑwəz] by some Americans.
     
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    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Alexmrphi, by my understanding the velarized "l" is the dark "l". I would say that in American English, all l's are velarized--at least to some degree. Even in words such as leaf or limb. They certainly are less velarized, but are still somewhat velarized--especially when you compare them to languages that have a truly light "l", such as Spanish or German. In fact, a characteristic of Americans (perhaps all/most Anglophones) in those languages is to pronounce the "l" in a rather dark way, and thus in a very non-native way.
    I would consider the case of the l becoming like a "w" to be the vocalized (since it is thus a semi-glide, and thus a semi-vowel).
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    In Scotland the general statement is that all l's are velarised ('dark L') while in Wales the general statement is that they are all non-velarised ('light L').
    I have seen the statement that it is to be considered the main theme that light-L doesn't exist in GA, but I think some people do have it, though they're in the minority (by far).
    L-vocalisation (to the point of Cockney levels) is something I am not familiar with in GA, but I can see it's reported to exist (i.e. here). That article is mainly dealing with British origins and distribution, however.
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    No, I disagree. I'm okay with people saying they say and hear "almost" and "already" with no "l", but that's a huge leap to "almost always pronounced that way."
    I often exaggerate to prove a point. "almost always" may be an exaggeration, but "very often" isn't. Americans very often say AWWREADY (particularly in an informal, familial setting).
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    They don't in my family, Tracer, and they don't in many, many families. These are very big generalizations. I can point you to films, television, interviews, reality shows, podcasts and the like where "almost" and "already" are spoken with an "l" by Americans. Granted, it's a soft sound but it's very different from "awready" or "awmost".

    I wouldn't say it was the norm to drop them. There may be some regions where it is much more common than in other regions but I wouldn't say it's the majority of speakers around me in California. In fact, other than teenagers, I would say it was the exception rather than the rule where I live. Considering 1 in 8 Americans is a Californian, that's a significant sample of the population to be listening to (not that I've spoken with ALL of them. :) )
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    I would tend to agree with Tracer. I'd imagine that the vast majority of Americans say "awready" when speaking at a NATURAL pace, and not carefully. When speaking carefully, I'm sure they say "already"--with an "l" barely distinguishable from the "w" sound. The point is that the pronunciation of English varies with the speed of speech--since it is a strong stress language (non-stressed syllables are pronounced very differently when speaking fast). Examples are many, many. What did you do? becomes "wadja do?" in natural speech, "going to" becomse "gonna", "had to" becomes "hadda", etc.... That same thing happens to individual sounds. If you asked, a lot of people would probably say they never did this. That's nonsense. They wouldn't be speaking English if they didn't do this.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Alexmrphi--You're very right about the Welsh "light l"--it's one of the distinguishing features of Welsh speakers of English! It's very audible. :)
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    They don't in my family, Tracer, and they don't in many, many families. These are very big generalizations. I can point you to films, television, interviews, reality shows, podcasts and the like where "almost" and "already" are spoken with an "l" by Americans. Granted, it's a soft sound but it's very different from "awready" or "awmost".

    I wouldn't say it was the norm to drop them. There may be some regions where it is much more common than in other regions but I wouldn't say it's the majority of speakers around me in California. In fact, other than teenagers, I would say it was the exception rather than the rule where I live. Considering 1 in 8 Americans is a Californian, that's a significant sample of the population to be listening to (not that I've spoken with ALL of them. :) )
    Well, I can't say I disagree with you, because I think we're basically saying the same thing in different ways. As you said, it isn't "the NORM to drop them", but at the same time, it is quite frequent...it's not "abnormal" to drop them. Furthermore, if, as you suggested, it's TEENAGERS who most frequently drop the "L", you know what that bodes for the future......pretty soon, it WILL become the norm to drop them.

    May I also say this: 1 in 8 Americans may be a Californian, but that doesn't help your argument one whit, considering that at least 50% of Californians are non-native speakers of English (and a large % of those don't speak English at all).

    PS. Check out koniecswiata's last posting. I agree with him/her: "If you asked, a lot of people would probably say they never did this. That's nonsense. They wouldn't be speaking English if they didn't do this." I agree 100%.
     
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    Shauna

    New Member
    American English
    I'm from the Pacific Northwest and I usually drop the 'l' in 'alright', already', 'almost', etc. in casual conversation, but I always add it back in there in formal situations.
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Well, I can't say I disagree with you, because I think we're basically saying the same thing in different ways. As you said, it isn't "the NORM to drop them", but at the same time, it is quite frequent...it's not "abnormal" to drop them. Furthermore, if, as you suggested, it's TEENAGERS who most frequently drop the "L", you know what that bodes for the future......pretty soon, it WILL become the norm to drop them.
    This is not proven out. As people age their speech patterns change. I certainly don't speak the same way I did in high school. Neither does my 20-something son. Yes, there's an effect and the language is always shifting, but it's not a valid assumption that you will hear businessman 15 years from now speaking like the high school students of today.

    May I also say this: 1 in 8 Americans may be a Californian, but that doesn't help your argument one whit, considering that at least 50% of Californians are non-native speakers of English (and a huge majority don't even speak English).
    That's a little closer to accurate. :) 58% of Californians speak English as their first language. I don't know what you mean by "a huge majority don't even speak English". The best statistics I can find place the number of Californians who don't speak English at all at less than 5%.

    PS. Check out koniecswiata's last posting. I agree with him/her: "If you asked, a lot of people would probably say they never did this. That's nonsense. They wouldn't be speaking English if they didn't do this." I agree 100%.
    I still disagree. I don't mean that people say almost as if they were saying the name "Al" followed by "most", but there is a difference between the soft "l" in "almost" and no "l" at all.
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    That's a little closer to accurate. :) 58% of Californians speak English as their first language. I don't know what you mean by "a huge majority don't even speak English". The best statistics I can find place the number of Californians who don't speak English at all at less than 5%.[/QUOTE 1]

    Well, you're probably right that the number of Californians who don't speak English AT ALL is less than 5%. But the 42% of Californians who speak English as a second language cannot be considered "native" speakers. Therefore you have to drop them from consideration in this discussion since they're non-native speakers. But the result is the same. The fact that 1 in 8 Americans reside in California does not bolster your argument since so many of them are non native speakers. [By the way, that 1 in 8 is dwindling fast.....more people are now exiting the Golden State than are entering it.]
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Let me guess.. Fox News? :) Our population isn't dwindling. Even if you throw out half our population you would still be talking about the third largest population by state in the U.S. rather than the largest. All I'm saying is that I don't think you're taking into account large portions of your own country's population when you make these statements and I hate to see people misled by them.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    The oddest thing:

    unrounded vowel ---> L due to spelling pronunciation ---> L coloring (rounding) of the preceding vowel ---> L dropped, but vowel rounding still present

    palm [pɑm] ---------> palm [pɑɫm] -----------------------> palm [pɒɫm] -------------------------------> palm [pɒm]

    calm [kɑm] ---------> calm [kɑɫm] -----------------------> calm [kɒɫm] --------------------------------> calm [kɒm]



    :D
     
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