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Please listen to my pronunciation.
http://vocaroo.com/i/s0DWEjzb1GpG

When I say "seagull", when making the L sound, my tongue makes contact with the area behind my front teeth. It's an /l/.

But for "seagulls", there is no contact at all between my tongue and my mouth.

Question:

  1. What is the phonetic transcription for the way that I pronounce "L" in "seagulls"? (I don't think it's /l/ because there is no contact as mentioned above. Or can it still be /l/ without contact?)

  2. Also, here is "golf". Also no L sound. What is the transcription? http://vocaroo.com/i/s0NvuYmJJOYh

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  • All I hear is L, L, and L. If that's your voice, you have the voice of a professional announcer. Jun 2, 2017 at 22:36

1 Answer 1

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L is a letter whose complexity is highly underrated. There are a multitude of pronunciations for the letter, and many are allophones in free variation in English. L is similar to R in this regard. The differences are often rather difficult to hear.

I’m a younger speaker from Chicago. In situations where I realize the /l/ phoneme with coronal contact (the edge of the tongue touching somewhere in the front of the mouth), it is usually denti-alveolar with varying degrees of velarization. However, one variation of the /l/ phoneme is produced with no coronal contact at all. It is usually transcribed as [ʟ] and described as a velar lateral approximant. Based on your description, I assume this was the phone you made. I think this realization is common post-vocalically (right after a vowel) but rare word-initially and intervocalically (between two vowels).

/l/ could never be an accurate phonetic transcription because slashes indicate phonemic transcription. If you are transcribing with slashes instead of brackets, you must choose only one symbol (/l/ is easiest) to represent all the lateral phones you produce since they are all allophones. If you are using brackets, you should distinguish the ones with and without coronal contact.

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