Not sure if this is the right place to ask on, but it's been bothering me for a while now. Do you still make a dark L before consonants like W, Y. For example - I'm all yours tonight. Will the L in "all" be a dark L?

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    Yes. The l is darkened syllable finally and word finally. So far as I can tell, the first sound in a following word has no relevance. (Medially, the first sound in a following syllable might be relevant.)
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 18, 2016 at 21:26
  • In a word like hallway, the tongue position at /l/ is velarized, and there's a slight rounding twitch at the edges of the mouth, but essentially the /l/ is non-syllabic [ʊ], prerounded by /w/. Dec 18, 2016 at 22:32
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    @JohnLawler, that's an interesting take. I (B.A. linguistics, MS speech-language pathology) would never think of [ʊ] as articulated similarly to the dark l, which seems so velarized (as least in the dialect in my neck of the woods) as to not compare well with [ʊ], which is actually how I would transcribe misproduced velar /l/ for students who don't produce it well. Dec 18, 2016 at 23:35
  • @KatherineLockwood, so where do you think [ʊ] is pronounced, if it isn't velar?
    – Greg Lee
    Dec 18, 2016 at 23:49
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    @GregLee, at least for an SLP, you would never call a vowel "velar," as there is no obstructive contact with the tongue on the velum. Dec 19, 2016 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


Before /w/, the "dark l" allophone will certainly be used

Before /w/, I can't imagine a native speaker who has "dark" and "light" allophones of /l/ using anything but dark l. The sequence /lw/ cannot occur within a single syllable in English, so the /l/ must be in a syllable coda, which is a position that strongly conditions the use of "dark l". I can't think of anything that would counteract this tendency before /w/.

Some speakers actually vocalize coda /l/ to something like [w], [ɰ] or [ɤ̯].

Also, some speakers who don't generally vocalize coda /l/ may elide it in some common words such as "always". I've also heard of this happening in other words with /lw/ such as "railway".

Jack Windsor Lewis wrote in "The General American and General British Pronunciations of English"

In GB [General British (English)] loss of an /l/ is very common in almost, always, railway, vulnerable, wholly (rendering it homophonous with holy) etc and syllable-finally some speakers vocalise /l/ to a weak /u/ in forms like /`veɪu/ veil, /`reɪueɪ/ railway etc mainly in markedly southeastern types of accent.

Before /j/, I'm not sure but I doubt "light l" would be used

Before /j/, I've read that some native speakers will drop /l/ in some words, such as "billion".

While it's true that front vowels or front semivowels tend to condition brighter realizations of adjacent consonants, I've never read of this occurring in English for /l/ before /j/. I don't know enough phonetics to say if this happens or not.

  • The Southern dialect I grew up with nearly drops the /l/ completely in words like "million," but the dialect where I am now has a very strongly velarized [l] along with a raised tongue-tip in that context. This link of Carl Sagan saying -illion words over and over again should be amusing regardless of what dialect you speak. Dec 18, 2016 at 23:36

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