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NATLANG: Interdental /l/ - in ENGLISH

From:Emily Zilch <emily0@...>
Date:Saturday, June 19, 2004, 22:51
I'm sticking another edited Linglist post here because it is something
I figure this list might appreciate.

Incidentally, upon investigation I have this phoneme! I'm still working
out where and when it exists, but I do have it. I wonder two things:
- is it more common in female speech?
- i am from southern new england, so who has this phoneme?

finally, should/when part 2 appears, would anyone like me to post it
on-list? let me know.

perplexed & fascinated,


LINGUIST List:  Vol-15-1836. Thu Jun 17 2004. ISSN: 1068-4875.
Subject: 15.1836, Sum: Interdental /l/ - Part 1

Some weeks ago I posted a query about a possible interdental
realisation of /l/ in the speech of young females from the West Coast
of the USA (Linguist 15.1675). An identical post was made on the
American Dialect Society List (ADS-L).

Part 1 of the summary follows:

Roger Lass of the University of Cape Town drew my attention to the
importance of distinguishing between a truly interdental realisation
and a laminal dental realisation. The latter may involve some
protrusion of the tongue tip. It is unclear from the comments received
whether this possible distinction can be maintained. For now, an /l/
with tongue tip protrusion will be classed broadly as 'interdental'.

Interdental /l/'s were reported for the singer Britney Spears and for
Reese Witherspoon's character in the film Legally Blonde: Kati Pedersen
of the University of Minnesota put in the effort to find the precise
location on the DVD (9th scene, 2447 secs) where a final interdental
/l/ occurs in the phrase 'law school'. Interestingly both Britney
Spears and Reese Witherspoon are originally from Louisiana, far from
the West Coast (some sources claim that RW is from Tennessee -  I will
follow Kati and many others on this). These realisations may represent
usage of a stereotypical feature, though both are reported from a
particular kind of event: a performance.

Two respondents made comments which may link into this observation:
Zach Wolff, a native of Kansas uses interdental /l/'s when teaching
English to Japanese primary school students in Japan to stress the
articulation required; Bruce Morén who grew up in Staten Island, New
York has interdentals as a result of speech therapy as a child -- this
was the method he was taught to produce onset and coda /l/ and his
mother still uses interdental /l/ when speaking exaggeratedly to his
nephew. It appears that interdental /l/ may be a particularly emphatic
articulation used to stress (visually) how the sound is articulated.

Some respondents claimed never to have heard this as a general feature
of a particular accent (Jim Fidelholtz, Nick Pharris), but Brook
Danielle Lillehaugen of UCLA reported an interdental /l/ in her own
speech. She fits the profile of my original post in that she is young,
female and was born and raised in Southern California. Nick Pharris,
originally from Northern California, now of the University of Michigan
reported having an interdental pharyngealised syllabic /l/ in words
where an alveolar precedes the /l/ like in 'funnel' and 'huddle'. Alice
Faber of Haskins Labs responded to the ADS-L post to say that she
misheard the name Galercole as Gathercole (also a possible name),
presumably due to an interdental /l/, and only became aware of the
misperception when she saw the name written down. Roger Lass also
reported coming across interdental /l/ occasionally, including in South
Africa. Probal Dasgupta of the University of Hyderabad reported his
acquisition of an interdental /l/ when speaking English during a 4 year
stay in New York as a child.

Miriam Mayerhoff of Edinburgh University, Scotland, reported the use of
interdental /l/ and also /n/ in Hawai'ian English (see Myerhoff, Miriam
2002. Topics from the tropics. Language Magazine. 2, 4. 39-44), and
speculated that this may have been carried to the West Coast via the
surfing community (presumably not surfing _all_ the way). Clyde Hankey,
retired of Youngstown State University, Ohio, reported hearing flapped
laterals in Indiana 45 years ago, which he remarks is a stretch for an
origin for this feature, but goes to show that laterals are
phonetically very varied.

Part 2 to follow....

Subject-Language: English;Italian; Code: ITN


Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Barbara Barrett <barbarabarrett@...>