Certain speakers of English have a tendency to “drop” L’s that occur after a vowel but before another consonant, as in balm, calm, golf, gulf, palm, wolf, and many more.

Often these aren’t completely dropped, but instead change the preceding vowel a little bit. So instead of wolf, they have woof; instead of palm they have pom or pawm; instead of golf, they have gawf.

People who drop their R’s in a similar position are said to have a non-rhotic pronunciation there, or to speak a non-rhotic dialect. What then is the corresponding term for someone who routinely drops their L’s, so “a non-????? speaker”? Lambdacism and lallation seem like dead ends.

This isn’t a new thing either, considering the historical L’s no longer heard in words like could and stalk. Whether it’s growing, I’m not sure, but perhaps so.

  • 4
    @Tristan I'm confused, are you positing that there's no such thing as a non-rhotic accent? Would your IPA transcription of a typical RP speaker saying the word "card", for example, include an /r/ (where I think a long vowel would normally go)? It is my understanding that this phenomenon is well recognized and understood by linguists.
    – Cameron
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 22:06
  • 2
    @Tristan Earth is a very good example of non-rhotic speakers from the UK dropping their R’s. Also look at better, daughter, bother. You could be mistaken because you are imagining an R phoneme there that underlies your pronunciation, so you just imagine you are producing something when you are not.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 22:28
  • 2
    @Tristan A “non-rhotic R” is an oxymoron: it is or it isn’t. It may be that your regional dialect is rhotic. It may also be that you are misperceiving, since all literature is unanimous in its agreement that non-rhotic dialects suppress Rs in particular situations and express them in others. You have a great deal of professional literature in stark disagreement with you. Let us ask Barrie on the morrow, as he is from the south o England and has the linguistic background to address your concerns. Are you perchance from the westcountry, or from the north? That could explain your confusion.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 23:01
  • 3
    What's more, English is not the only language where this has occurred. The Polish character ɫ was once pronounced like a dark l, but is now pronounced as [w]. Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 0:54
  • 3
    @MarkBeadles It happens in Braziu, too.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


It would appear that the word you’re looking for is L-vocalization, which, to quote the wikipedia page on the topic, “is a process by which an [l] sound is replaced by a vowel or semivowel sound”, which appears to be what is being described here, specifically with regards to English L-vocalization — where “an /l/ sound occurring at the end of a word or before a consonant is replaced with the semivowel [w]”, such as the palm/pawm issue (the example given in the article is of milk [mIwk]).

I don’t think there is a term for someone who does this in the non-??? speaker fashion, although L-vocalizer could be a valid construction.

  • 3
    Oh, I answered: "There is a Wikipedia article that refers to this as L-dropping, which is distinct from L-breaking and L-deletion. I suppose you could call it "non-lambdal" but that doesn't appear to be in common usage." But you have covered the other part of the Wiki article I linked to, and yours fits better, so I'm deleting mine.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Aug 2, 2012 at 21:41
  • 2
    I’m going to accept that I can’t say non-???, and just use L-vocalizer. Thanks!
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 3:23

An alternative to LissyNumber's answer is "velarisation" associated with a "dark L". I supposed you could call this a velarising speaker.

  • 2
    L-velarization ≠ l-vocalization. Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 7:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.