Is /l/ in 'whole' dark or clear?
I know that a clear (palatalised) /l/ is in a prevocalic position; nonetheless, I also know that the dark /l/ (velarised) is usually at the end of words.
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Dark L or velarized L /ɫ/: If the L sound comes after the vowel or diphthong in a syllable, it will be a velar or dark L sound /ɫ/.
The dark L sound is really two sounds: a vowel sound + the L sound. After making the vowel sound, the tip of your tongue will rise up and press against the back of your top teeth in the same way as the light L sound. The dark L sound is a voiced sound, so your vocal cords will make the sound.
The dark L sound is often found in the middle or at the end of a word.
Examples: Bell, hell, whole, doll, circle etc.
As John Lawler says:
"Prevocalic position" refers to real pronounced vowels, not silent spelling letters. Whole is pronounced /hol/, with the /l/ at the end of the world. You can't do phonetics unless you're dealing with phones. Letters are just distractions.
The 'e' is silent in 'whole' and L is the final sound in the word so it's dark L (/ɫ/).
Light L sound /l/: If the L sound comes before the vowel or diphthong in a syllable, it will be a light L sound.
When you make the light L sound, the tip of your tongue will rise up and press against the back of your top teeth. The light L sound is a voiced sound, so your vocal cords will make the sound.
The light L sound is usually found at the beginning of a word.
Examples: Like, laugh, long, lip etc.
It depends on the accent, but it doesn't matter much because dark and clear /l/ are only allophones, not meaningfully different sounds in English.
In certain southern British English accents, "whole" would be pronounced with light /l/ before a word starting with a vowel, and with a dark /l/ before a word starting with a consonant.
In certain other accents, including some American accents, "whole" is always pronounced with dark l, even before a word starting with a vowel. (My accent follows this pattern for the use of dark l.)
Dark, light (or clear), and palatalized versions of /l/ form a range, so cutoff points are a bit arbitrary. That said, English phoneticians usually do not describe clear /l/ as a "palatalized" sound.