Articulatorily, velarization and pharyngealization are distinct, but they are often conflated in linguistic analyses I've seen:
- Conflating them is common enough, I presume, that the IPA allocates the tilde-overlay diacritic for velarized/pharyngealized (in addition to the more specific /ˠ/ and /ˤ/).
- Most descriptions of the Russian (un-palatalized) л /l/ call it either "plain" or "velarized", but this Wikipedia page says "/l/ is often strongly pharyngealized but this feature is nondistinctive".
- Similarly, while the English dark l is commonly described as a velarized alveolar lateral approximant, in my own speech it seems strongly pharyngealized when in the syllable coda. (That is, it sounds very distinct if I eliminate the pharyngeal articulation; while I think it's somewhat velarized that doesn't affect the sound much.),
Is it true that languages often don't distinguish (phonemically) between velarization and pharyngealization? If so, why? Are they acoustically similar?