I'm from a place where there is no "L" in the language, and it's always been tricky to say.

Well, I did some research and, at least for American-English, there are two types: A "light L" and a "dark L".

Individually, I don't have a problem, but putting the dark L together with another word is sometimes a challenge. For example, I'm uncertain about "all of". Out of habit I use a light L to say it similar to "olive", but from what I read (and correct me if I'm wrong), I think I'm supposed to use a dark L for "all". This is very uncomfortable to say.

What's the proper way to pronounce "all" and "all of"? Is there a difference when put together?

EDIT: I did some more research, and some sources say that the dark L also uses the tip of the tongue as well as raising the back of the tongue. It's possible that "all of" is used in this manner. "All of" and "olive" may be different after all.

The linked post Confusion of the pronunciation of Dark "L" consonant sound? does have some information, but it doesn't fully answer this question.

Tom says in the question that

Dark "L": is "L" at the end of the word or after a vowel sound. Example: ball, pull.

Light "L:: is "L" at the beginning or before a vowel sound. Example: light, love.

Araucaria says in an answer that

The rule for dark /l/ is that we always use dark /l/ when /l/ isn't followed by a vowel. So in the word falafel the first /l/ is clear, the second is dark.

But neither of these posts seem to say if the rule applies when a word ending in "l," such as "all," is followed by a word starting with a vowel sound, such as "of."

  • You have me interested. Give me an example of usage for the dark "L." (I'm more of a grammar nerd when it comes to English, than a vocab one) – user189910 Sep 23 '16 at 7:29
  • Again, I'm not 100% sure, but for dark L's like "pool" or "real", I don't believe you place the tip of the tongue against the hard palate like you would for "lego". – user1164937 Sep 23 '16 at 7:38
  • I think that most British English speakers would run the two words together and say "or-lov". I certainly do. Only the most precise speakers would separate the words. So yes, run the words together and use a light L. – Mick Sep 23 '16 at 7:47
  • Note: most Americans do not distinguish light and dark L. All Ls in most American dialects are dark (velarised). The distinction is much more common in British English and Australian English. (Some other Englishes, like Irish English and South African English, tend to use only the light, non-velarised L.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 23 '16 at 10:12
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    @JanusBahsJacquet We use the same sound in little as we use in fool? Really? I certainly do not. – tchrist Sep 23 '16 at 12:24

The "L" sound:

Well, If I am correct the "L" sound itself, isolated from other sounds, is simply pronouncing a consonant while the tip of your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth.

Importance of Consonant:

Therefore, how you pronounce "all" isn't dependent on the "L" sound, but technically how you pronounce the a sound.

(Speech Therapy) How to Physically Pronounce it:

This section will give you a detailed description of its pronunciation

If you need a better visual of what your tongue should be doing imagine the tip of your tongue is your hand and the roof-side of the tip is the palm of your hand. Press the "palm of your hand" to the roof of your mouth, while pronouncing whatever you think the a sound is.

The way I (American City Accent) pronounce the a sound is like "ah"/"awe". If you are struggling, try more practice with just your basic consonant sounds. There are many ways to pronounce the consonant "A"

Another way to practice, is to practice pronouncing the A consonant in all of its pronunciations while pronouncing the "L" sound.

Also, technically due to differing accents (native or not) essentially there is no "proper" way to say a sound, but more a conformative way to do it, so...

Last, but not least, let's account for accent and region:

So, the other question is what native accent or regional accent do you want to conform to? American, British, Australian, etc? City, Country, Extremely-Gangster, in-between?

Oh. One other thing...

The example provided about "olive," as an American who lives in the city, I pronounce "all of" just like "olive"

*To Anyone It May Concern: feel free to edit my response, if you speak differently with a different regional accent

According to tChrist, you must also account for the Cot-Caught merger:

This plays into account of how you pronounce the word "olive"

here is a detailed video on the difference and the merge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtO0s7pXkaE

According to the video, it is perhaps better to compare using the term "hot dog" as opposed to the word "olive"

In the phrase "hot dog" the "o" sound made in "dog" is how I pronounce the "a" in "all"

An easy way to remember to use the hot dog test or how it is used is that "dog" is commonly informally (and I mean highly informally) written more phonetically, "dawg"

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    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of an "inner city accent". Which city? This is a regional distinction if anything, not an urbanization one. Also, I can’t imagine pronouncing olive at all like all of, but you probably have the extreme version of the cot–caught merger as seen in places like southern California. – tchrist Sep 23 '16 at 12:27
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    @tchrist: the "ah"/"awe" points to the cot-caught merger. – Peter Shor Sep 23 '16 at 15:09
  • @tchrist I just mean urban or city. I've lived all of the US, and noticed that the more you move into the city, the less you have a regional accent, and more of a conformative american accent. Also, vice versa, the further you live from a downtown area, the more regional your accent is. – user189910 Sep 24 '16 at 2:16
  • @tchrist If there is a technical term already in place feel free to edit my response. – user189910 Sep 24 '16 at 2:17
  • Furthermore on the topic of conformative vs regional accent, good examples of how they work, can be seen in the cities Phoenix, and Dallas. The more you live out in Arizona's and Texas's country landscape the more likely you are to speak with a hillbilly/country-side accent, but the closer you live to those 2 cities, the more you loose that accent. However, there is an interesting exception due to regional pride in Texas. In Dallas, nearly everyone uses the slang "y'all" and the regional accent for this city has a slight influence from southern accents – user189910 Sep 24 '16 at 2:20

Usually, when I say 'l' the sound finishes with my tongue still touching the roof of my mouth just behind the top front teeth. This is the sound I make when l is at the end of a word ('all').

When a word/syllable begins with 'l' the sound starts in the same way but it finishes with a (more or less obvious) schwa (ə). This happens because my tongue bounces away from the roof of my mouth and I aspirate as it does.

So, when I say "all" - and it finishes the phrase ("He has it all.") - I say /ɔːl/.

But when I say "all of it", I usually say 'or-lov-it' and the 'l', being at the start of the second syllable, is /ɔː ləɒv ɪt/.

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