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I’m a younger speaker from Chicago with some version of a General American accent. I’ve noticed that a small number of words seem to have a nonstandard pronunciation with an inserted lateral sound, probably best represented as [ʟ]. The ones that come to mind are “both,” which might be realized roughly as [bɔ̝ʟθ], and “mouth,” which might be around [maʟθ]. Perhaps the tongue tip might also prepare for the [θ] early, which could create [bɔ̝ɫ̺θ] and [maɫ̪θ], but that is purely hypothetical.

I wonder if any of these pronunciations are common. If they are, in which regions are they most likely to occur, and for what type of speakers? What other words might be realized in a similar way?

I am also searching for an explanation or an underlying rule behind this L-epenthesis. Both examples presented involve the replacement of the endpoint of a closing diphthong before [θ], but I am not sure why that would facilitate the insertion of a lateral sound or if that is the only situation in which it is possible.

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  • The /o/ phoneme and the /au/ phoneme both end in a high back vowel, which can sound like a velarized lateral, the kind that's common at the end of a word. That's why /l/ is often pronounced /w/ by children (and mixed up with /r/ and /w/ by Elmer Fudd). Jan 3, 2023 at 22:46
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    This also happens before other consonants, like "f". Which explains the silent L in "half".
    – Barmar
    Jan 3, 2023 at 22:46

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"Bolth" is widely anecdotally reported, other words much less so.

I have never seen this hypothesis in literature, but I've suspected that the preceding labial consonant in both is somehow relevant. I think supposed has a pronunciation "suppolst"/"suppolsed".

Influence of a preceding labial is mentioned on this mailing list: https://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2005-April/048343.html

I've also seen speculation that in some words a pronunciation of /o/ that sounds like /ol/ could result from assimilation to an /l/ in another part of the word, in examples like social and only.

I wonder whether it seems possible in the second syllable of almost, which meets both of these criteria.

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