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Interdental /l/ - Part 2

From:Emily Zilch <emily0@...>
Date:Wednesday, June 23, 2004, 2:59
LINGUIST List:  Vol-15-1889. Tue Jun 22 2004. ISSN: 1068-4875.
Subject: 15.1889, Sum: Interdental /l/ Part 2
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Date:  Tue, 22 Jun 2004 11:26:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:  Interdental /l/ summary Part 2

Interdental laterals also occur in the Italian dialects of Calabria (M.
  Loporcaro e A. Mancuso, Interdentale ma anche laterale: /l/
prevocalica nei dialetti della (Pre)Sila, in P. M. Bertinetto e L.
Cioni (a cura di), Unità fonetiche e fonologiche: produzione e
percezione, Pisa, Scuola Normale Superiore 1998, pp.77-90). Professor
Loporcaro was kind enough to supply a hard copy of the paper, which can
be very briefly summarised as follows: Interdental /l/ (transcribed as
IPA voiced (inter)dental fricative symbol edh with superscript l) has
been recorded in three towns (Casole, S. Giovanni in Fiore, Bisignano)
within an area east of Cosenza in Southern Italy which shows [DH]
realisations of Latin singleton /l/ in pre- and intervocalic positions.
The interdental realisation has not been remarked upon in previous

Loporcaro and Mancuso (1998: 80) describe the articulation as involving
a neutral position of the tongue body, with the tongue tip protruded
between the teeth (they refer to a brushing motion in the articulation,
presumably as the tongue tip is withdrawn). Airflow occurs on either
side of the medial constriction and there is some light and barely
perceptible frication.  Acoustically, interdental /l/ has a low F1
(300-380 Hz) with F2 between 900 and 1050 Hz where visible. Higher
formants are not consistently visible. Frication is light.

Loporcaro and Mancuso (1998: 81) attribute the low F2 in the
interdental lateral relative to geminate non-interdental /l/ either to
the larger lingual cavity arising from the interdental articulation, or
due to velarisation. The latter explanation is excluded by a
kineasthetic study of one speaker from Casole, but Loporcaro and
Mancuso remark that no detailed articulatory studies have been
conducted. Relatively low F2 provides an acoustic parallel to dark
laterals (cf. American English interdental /l/, the presence of dark
laterals in neighbouring Italian dialects). An acoustic quality of
darkness seems likely to have played a part in the diachronic
development of these sounds, whether the low F2 is attributable to
velarisation/pharyngealisation or to a larger oral cavity (or both).

Interdental /l/ seems to crop up due to coarticulation to interdental
/TH/ in Castillian Spanish (see, and Jim
Fidelholtz and Rudy (see below) also reported this possibility for
words like 'health'. My own interdental /TH/ (apparently the minority
realisation for British English speakers) coarticulates to my (dental)
/l/, not the other way round.

To conclude: this realisation of /l/ occurs in some people's speech as
an idiosyncrasy, perhaps mainly for dark coda and syllabic /l/'s , and
in Calabrian dialect. It may also occur after speech therapy or as an
exaggerated realisation of /l/. It occurs in Hawai'i and the two
respondents who claimed to use it in 'normal speech' were both from the
West Coast. The possibility that this is a native feature for Britney
Spears and Reese Witherspoon, both from Louisiana, cannot be
discounted. Whether it is a truly regional feature is impossible to say
on the basis of this very limited data, but it could be. It seems there
is much still to learn about this.

My thanks to all who took the time to contribute:

Probal Dasgupta, Alice Faber, James L. Fidelholtz, Paul Foulkes, Clyde
Hankey, Roger Lass, Brook Danielle Lillehaugen, Michele Loporcaro,
Miriam Meyerhoff, Bruce Morén, Kati Pederson, Nick Pharris, Mark Sharp,
Zach Wolff,

and Rudy, whose full name and affiliation I managed to delete while
compiling this summary. My apologies and thanks.

Mark J. Jones
Department of Linguistics
University of Cambridge

LINGUIST List: Vol-15-1889