I find it easy to pronounce words like full (/fʊl/, dark l) and light (/laɪt/, light l), but when the letter l appears in the middle of a word, things become tricky. I can hear different pronunciations from some native speakers, e.g.
- delete /dɪˈliːt/. Almost all pronounce it as a light l, i.e. /dɪ-ˈliːt/.
- delegate /ˈdelɪgeɪt/. Some pronounce it as /ˈdel-lɪgeɪt/ (as a dark l and a light l), and some pronounce it just as /ˈde-lɪgeɪt/ (light l only).
- silly /ˈsɪli/. Like the "delegate" case, both /ˈsɪl-li/ and /ˈsɪ-li/ can be heard.
My question is: is there any pronunciation rule for "l in the middle of a word"? Thank you.
PS: I have found some explanations after googling:
Rachel's English: L in the Middle of a Word. This video suggests that there's only a light l sound by taking "elongate" for example.
Wikipedia: Velarization. Seems it hasn't clearly described the case for "l in the middle of a word".
A common example of a velarized consonant is the velarized alveolar lateral approximant (or dark L). In some accents of English, such as Received Pronunciation, the phoneme /l/ has "dark" and "light" allophones: the "dark", velarized allophone appears in syllable coda position (e.g. in full), while the "light", non-velarized allophone appears in syllable onset position (e.g. in lawn). Other accents of English, such as Scottish English, Australian English, and General American English, have "dark L" in all positions, while Hiberno-English has "clear L" in all positions.