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L-vocalization

L-vocalization

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In linguistics, l-vocalization is a process by which an l sound is replaced by a vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

 or semivowel
Semivowel
In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel is a sound, such as English or , that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.-Classification:...

 sound. This happens most often to velarized ɫ.

English


L-vocalization is a notable feature of certain dialects of English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, including New Zealand English
New Zealand English
New Zealand English is the dialect of the English language used in New Zealand.The English language was established in New Zealand by colonists during the 19th century. It is one of "the newest native-speaker variet[ies] of the English language in existence, a variety which has developed and...

, Cockney
Cockney
The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End...

, New York English, Philadelphia English
Philadelphia dialect
The Philadelphia dialect is the dialect of English spoken in Philadelphia; and extending into Philadelphia's suburbs in the Delaware Valley and southern New Jersey. It is one of the best-studied dialects of American English since Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania is the home institution of...

 and Estuary English
Estuary English
Estuary English is a dialect of English widely spoken in South East England, especially along the River Thames and its estuary. Phonetician John C. Wells defines Estuary English as "Standard English spoken with the accent of the southeast of England"...

, in which an /l/ sound occurring at the end of a word or before a consonant is replaced with the semivowel
Semivowel
In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel is a sound, such as English or , that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.-Classification:...

 w, and a syllabic /əl/ is replaced by vowel
Vowel
In phonetics, a vowel is a sound in spoken language, such as English ah! or oh! , pronounced with an open vocal tract so that there is no build-up of air pressure at any point above the glottis. This contrasts with consonants, such as English sh! , where there is a constriction or closure at some...

s like o or ʊ, resulting in pronunciations such as [mɪwk], for milk, and [ˈmɪdo], for middle. It can be heard occasionally in the dialect of the English East Midlands
East Midlands
The East Midlands is one of the regions of England, consisting of most of the eastern half of the traditional region of the Midlands. It encompasses the combined area of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire and most of Lincolnshire...

, where words ending in -old can be pronounced /oʊd/. Petyt (1985) noted this feature in the traditional dialect of West Yorkshire but said it has died out.

Especially in New Zealand English and Cockney, l-vocalization can be accompanied by phonemic mergers of vowels before the vocalized /l/. For example, real, reel and rill, which are distinct in Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

, are homophones in Cockney as [ɹɪw].

In the accent of Bristol
Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, syllabic /l/ vocalized to /o/, resulting in pronunciations like /ˈbɒto/ (for bottle). By hypercorrection
Hypercorrection
In linguistics or usage, hypercorrection is a non-standard usage that results from the over-application of a perceived rule of grammar or a usage prescription...

, however, some words originally ending in /o/ were given an /l/: the original name of the town was Bristow, but this has been altered by hypercorrection to Bristol.

In the United States, the dark L in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh English
Pittsburgh English, popularly known by outsiders as Pittsburghese, is the dialect of American English spoken by many especially older residents of Pittsburgh and parts of surrounding Western Pennsylvania in the United States, a group referred to by locals and others as Yinzers.-Overview:Many of the...

 and African-American Vernacular English dialects may change to an /o/ or /w/. In African American Vernacular, it may be omitted altogether (e.g. fool becomes [fuː], cereal becomes [ˈsiɹio]). Some English speakers from San Francisco - particularly those of Asian ancestry - also vocalize or omit /l/.

Middle Scots


In early 15th century Middle Scots
Middle Scots
Middle Scots was the Anglic language of Lowland Scotland in the period from 1450 to 1700. By the end of the 13th century its phonology, orthography, accidence, syntax and vocabulary had diverged markedly from Early Scots, which was virtually indistinguishable from early Northumbrian Middle English...

 /al/ (except intervocalically and before /d/), /ol/ and often /ul/ changed to /au/, /ou/ and /uː/. For example all changed to aw, colt to cowt, ful to fou (full) and the rare exception hald to haud (hold).

Dutch


In Dutch, the combinations old ('old') and holt ('wood') changed to oud and hout during the Middle Ages.

Swiss German


In Bernese German
Bernese German
Bernese German is the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau part of the canton of Bern and in some neighbouring regions.- Varieties :There is a lot of regional variation within Bernese German dialects...

, a historical /l/ in coda position has become [w], a historical /lː/ (only occurring intervocalically) has become /wː/, whereas intervocalic /l/ persists. The absence of vocalization was one of the distinctive features of the upper class variety which is not much spoken anymore. For example, the German name of the city of Biel
Biel/Bienne
Biel/Bienne is a city in the district of the Biel/Bienne administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.It is located on the language boundary and is throughout bilingual. Biel is the German name for the town, Bienne its French counterpart. The town is often referred to in both...

 is pronounced [ˈb̥iə̯w].

This type of vocalization of /l/, however, such as [sɑwts] for Salz, is a phenomenon recently spreading in many Western Swiss German dialects, with the Emmental as centre.

Romance languages

  • In Brazilian Portuguese
    Brazilian Portuguese
    Brazilian Portuguese is a group of Portuguese dialects written and spoken by most of the 190 million inhabitants of Brazil and by a few million Brazilian emigrants, mainly in the United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Canada, Japan and Paraguay....

    , historical [ɫ] (/l/ in the syllable coda
    Syllable coda
    In phonology, a syllable coda comprises the consonant sounds of a syllable that follow the nucleus, which is usually a vowel. The combination of a nucleus and a coda is called a rime. Some syllables consist only of a nucleus with no coda...

    ) has become the semivowel
    Semivowel
    In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel is a sound, such as English or , that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.-Classification:...

     [w]. For example, the words mau (bad) and mal (badly) are both pronounced [maw].
  • In early French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

    , /l/ vocalized in many positions between a preceding vowel and a following consonant or end of a word, for example caldus (Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

     for "warm, hot") became chaud (in Old French with a diphthong similar to /au/, later monophthongized to /o/). Another example: The accusative singular masculine form of the word "new" in Vulgar Latin was novellu(m). This regularly changed to nouvell in Old French
    Old French
    Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

    , so that /l/ stood at the end of the word and vocalized to /w/, leading to /nou'vew/, which resembles the current written form nouveau. In the feminine form, /l/ stood between two vowels (novella), so the /l/ did not turn into a /w/ and can consequently still be heard today (Modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

    : nouvelle /nu'vɛl/).
  • Neapolitan
    Neapolitan language
    Neapolitan is the language of the city and region of Naples , and Campania. On October 14, 2008 a law by the Region of Campania stated that the Neapolitan language had to be protected....

     shows a pattern similar to French, where [l] is vocalized, especially after [a]. For example, vulgar Latin altu > àutə; alter > àutə; calza > cauzétta (with diminutive suffix). In many areas the vocalized [l] has evolved further into a syllabic [v], thus àvətə, cavəzetta.
  • Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

     had similar changes to those of French, though they were less common, for example Latin alter became autro and later otro, while caldus remained caldo; there were also some less standard shifts, like vultur to buitre.

Slavic languages

  • In Bulgarian
    Bulgarian language
    Bulgarian is an Indo-European language, a member of the Slavic linguistic group.Bulgarian, along with the closely related Macedonian language, demonstrates several linguistic characteristics that set it apart from all other Slavic languages such as the elimination of case declension, the...

    , young people often pronounce the [ɫ] of the standard language as [w] or [o], especially in an informal context. For example, pronunciations which could be transcribed as [maʊ̯ko] or [mao̯ko] occurs instead of standard [maɫko] ("a little").
  • In Polish
    Polish language
    Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

     and Sorbian languages
    Sorbian languages
    The Sorbian languages are classified under the Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. They are the native languages of the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. Historically the language has also been known as Wendish or Lusatian. Their collective ISO 639-2 code...

    , all historical /ɫ/ have become /w/, even in word-initial and inter-vocalic position. For example, Polish ładny "pretty, nice" is pronounced ˈwadnɨ; słowo "word" is [ˈswɔvɔ]; and mały "small" in both Polish and Sorbian is [ˈmawɨ] (cf. Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

     малый ˈmaɫɨj). The /w/ pronunciation dates back to the 16th century, first appearing among peasants. It was considered an uncultured accent until the mid-20th century when this stigma gradually began to fade. As of the early 2000s, /ɫ/ can still be used by some speakers of eastern Polish dialects, especially in Belarus
    Belarus
    Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

     and Lithuania
    Lithuania
    Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

    .
  • In Ukrainian
    Ukrainian language
    Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

    , at the end of a closed syllable
    Syllable
    A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word water is composed of two syllables: wa and ter. A syllable is typically made up of a syllable nucleus with optional initial and final margins .Syllables are often considered the phonological "building...

    , historical /ɫ/ has become /w/. For example, the Ukrainian word for "wolf" is вовк /ʋowk/, cf. Russian
    Russian language
    Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

     вoлк [voɫk].
  • In Serbo-Croatian
    Serbo-Croatian language
    Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat, less commonly Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian , is a South Slavic language with multiple standards and the primary language of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro...

    , a historical /l/ in coda position has become /o/ and is now so spelled. For example, the Serbo-Croatian name of Belgrade
    Belgrade
    Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

     is Beograd. However, in Croatian
    Croatian language
    Croatian is the collective name for the standard language and dialects spoken by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighbouring countries...

     the process is partially reversed; compare Croatian stol, vol, sol vs. Serbian sto, vo, so (meaning "table", "ox" and "salt").
  • In Slovene historical coda /l/ is still spelled as l but pronounced as /w/.

Vocalization to i or j

  • In Austro-Bavarian
    Austro-Bavarian
    Bavarian , also Austro-Bavarian, is a major group of Upper German varieties spoken in the south east of the German language area.-History and origin:...

    , the etymological /l/ is vocalised into i or y, e.g. vui corresponding with High German viel ("much"). The same phenomenon occurs in Missingsch, as well, but only when the etymological /l/ precedes a syllable-final velar consonant.
  • In early Italian
    Italian language
    Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

    , /l/ vocalized between a preceding consonant and a following vowel to /j/, e.g. Latin flos > Italian fiore, Latin clavis > Italian chiave.

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