My English teacher grew up in Texas and unsurprisingly her native dialect is Texan English. I noticed that when intervocalic /l/ is followed by /i/, the /l/ is elided and /y/ takes its place. For example, "million" is pronounced "miyyon" and "bill you" is pronounced "biyyou". I wanted to see if this feature was also present in SAE, as it could explain the origin. Texan English seems to derive a lot of features from SAE.

According to Wikipedia, l-vocalization is any case where /l/ becomes a vowel or semivowel. However, most examples that come up when I try to find information on "English l-vocalization" are cases where dark l is elided or replace with /w/. So, either the feature in my teacher's dialect is not actually an example of l-vocalization, or I'm just terrible at using google.

So, my question is this: Is the /l/ to /y/ feature derived from SAE? If it is, where could I find more information on this sort of topic in the future?


My guess would be Mexican Spanish.

In my close-to-GAE dialect, the word "million" has only two syllables—that is, it has /j/, not /i/, in the middle. Phonetically, this /lj/ is often realized as [ʎ], blending the lateral-ness of /l/ with the palatal-ness of /j/.

Spanish classically had a phonemic distinction between /ʎ/ and /j/. But a famous and distinctive feature of Mexican Spanish (which is now pretty much universal in other dialects too) has always been yeísmo: merging them both into [j~ʝ].

So I would attribute the Texan shift, /lj/ [ʎ][j~ʝ], to the influence of Mexican yeísmo. Midwestern English (a bit to the north) and Southern American English (a bit to the east) are both farther from Mexico and thus don't show the same shift.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.