3

What is the phonological process whereby a speaker would use [ʊ] as a replacement for [l]?

Some examples off the top of my head; [lɪtl] -> [lɪtʊ], [gɪgl] -> [gɪgʊ], [twɪŋkl] -> [twɪŋkʊ]

7
  • 1
    In English this is a progression from "dark l". Dec 21 '13 at 13:16
  • Perhaps laziness to open your mouth ;D?
    – Derfder
    Dec 21 '13 at 14:44
  • Is this for English? I've never heard this at all? Is this ... 'baby' talk?
    – Mitch
    Dec 21 '13 at 16:26
  • 1
    Phonologists call this l-vocalisation.
    – robert
    Dec 22 '13 at 0:17
  • @Mitch: It was very common in Australian English when I was growing up, and I think it still is. I remember one host of the TV chat show Beauty and the Beast making fun of it at every opportunity. Dec 22 '13 at 5:45
2

I say this a lot. Like Hippietrail said, it's a progression from the dark l. I can say as [wɫ̩] when it's used as a discourse particle. My dialect tends to turn a syllable final velarized [ɫ] into [w]. As a result, I VERY often say [wː] instead of [wɛɫ]. I can record it if you like.

That aside, the way it progresses from a dark l to a [w] or a [ʊ], depending on your perspective (is it a syllabic consonant, or a vowel? lol) is because the mouth shape for [ɫ] is almost exactly the same for [w] except the apex of the tongue is touching the alveolar ridge. As soon as the tip lets go, it sounds like [w] and not [ɫ].

In case you don't know, [ɫ] is an /l/ with the back of the tongue velarized. That is, it's nearing the velum (where you produce /k/ and /g/).

As for the name of this phonological process? I haven't the faintest idea. De-alveolarisation, maybe? Haha, maybe not.

1
  • 1
    Probly "velarization" is still the important term. The laterality isn't needed finally, as long as the velar nature can be determined. [ʊ] is the ideal vowel to represent dark /l/, since it's velar (i.e, high back, just as high front is palatal) and lax (and thus not very strongly rounded or diphthongized).
    – jlawler
    Dec 22 '13 at 0:47
2

It's basically a type of debuccalization. Although the standard examples of debuccalization are things like s > h and t > ʔ, this is the same kind of process, since the loss of alveolar closure turns syllabic [ɫ] into a kind of laterally colored high back vowel.

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.